Many people, including a vast majority in this country tend to view refugees with a jaundiced eye.Yet, they can contribute so much to a country, including an ancient cuisine that's full of flavor and variety. French chefs know this and they are letting these new arrivals their day - in the kitchen.
Alissa J. Rubin wrote about this phenomena exchange in today's New York Times Food section. The movement is called Les Cuistots Migrateurs or the Migratory Cooks and was created by two innovative and intrepid French entrepreneurs Louis Jacquot and Sebastian Prunier..They tracked down trained chefs who were among the millions seeking asylum in France and employed them , hopefully changing the way the French look at them.Refugees are usually seen as a drain on society pulling it down. By allowing them to be chefs again they contribute not just to society but add some spice literally to the usually staid Gallic cuisine. Les Cuistots Migrateurs cook at the restaurant, Le Petit Bain, owned by Monsieurs Jacquot and Prunier. Diners are greeted by the sounds of world music.It seemed appropriate to hire the Syrians chefs to add their dishes and flavors to the menu.The co-owners were well traveled business men who had a shared interest in bringing the food they had tasted on their travels.Mr. Jacquot lived on the street foods of Southern Asia , Brazil and Latin America. while Mr. Prunier lived abroad in Hong Kong , Singapore and Shanghai, eating in private homes, experiencing family dishes.
This culinary wanderlust paid off. It brought about a restaurant that was accepting of this latest addition to French dining. Another catalyst was an event that the two men attended a party at a non profit organization last fall.Migrants also attended and brought foods from their counties. This sparked an idea. They could sift through the refugees for those who were trained chefs. Mssrs Jacquot and Prunier had three goals. One of the most important was exposing native French people to the cuisines and cultures of these immigrants.They wanted to create jobs for them and the last, they wanted to change the way these newcomers were being seen. The chefs would be on hand to explain the dishes to diners.The chefs are from all over. There are three from Syria, one from Chechnya along with chefs from India, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka, Two chefs from Afghanistan and Tibet are scheduled to join as well. Classics such as kebbe, a kind of meatball made from ground beef or lamb with bulger or cracked wheat.Samosas are also on the menu as is quail with freekah or green Durham wheat along with mackerel cooked with peppers and tahini.
Any immigrant groups adds to a country, especially to its' cuisine. It is a stroke of genius to let them cook and integrate their flavors into an established cuisine. We need to do the same here in the States