Irish Restaurants Open Doors to Refugee Chefs

The Irish Refugee Food Festival crackled in to life this June, as Dublin’s Michelin starred Heron & Grey and Drogheda’s Eastern Seaboard opened their doors to chefs and bakers with refugee status, or refugee applications under consideration.

The Festival was part of a series of events UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, organised with partners from Kai Restaurant, Galway; St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin; and Lisa Regan PR, to mark World Refugee Day on 20th June.

In total, 16 restaurants and food businesses across Ireland welcomed new chefs in to their kitchens to showcase their skills and share their culinary heritage in a series of events culminating in welcome dinners on 20th June, World Refugee Day, in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin and Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre, Cork.

“Despite the difficult and tragic circumstances in which people flee, we should not forget that refugees bring skills and talents to their new homes,” said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland. “With their right to work set to be introduced for asylum seekers, the Refugee Food Festival aims to connect people with employers that are eager for their experience and knowhow.”

More than 270 refugees and asylum-seekers were invited to a welcome dinner for refugees in St Patrick’s Cathedral on 20th June. Meanwhile, chef Jess Murphy of Kai Restaurant cooked alongside five residents of Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre on the same date. Kinsale Road is one of the first direct provision centres in Ireland to introduce self-catering, one of the key recommendations of the 2015 McMahon report.

According to Murphy, Irish restaurants need 7,000 staff, many of whom may be in Ireland’s new communities: “This month we are all showing through our kitchens how much we need people in there working. There is a massive chef shortage in Ireland and by having our peers from other countries in working, prepping and cooking food, we are filling positions where there is a real shortage of skilled staff. On top of this we are all learning from each other, experiencing real food culture in the kitchen. That is only going to benefit us all. This is happening in 16 locations across Ireland, and it is a very positive thing.”

The following restaurants and food business participated in the refugee food festival: Eastern Seaboard, Drogheda; Heron & Grey, Dublin; 3fe, Dublin; Five Points, Dublin; Cloud Picker Coffee in The Science Gallery, Dublin; Seasons, Guinness Storehouse, Dublin; Bean and Goose, Ferns; Loam, Galway; Kai, Galway; Miyazaki, Cork; The Tannery, Dungarvan; Dela, Galway; Café Rua, Castlebar; Pudding Row, Easkey; Shells, Sligo; Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Dublin and Galway; and FoodSpace operated restaurants and cafes, nationwide.

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