Interviews with Our Cooks
We took some time to get to know our cooks - they have many stories to share!
See some of their stories here and join us at one of our upcoming events to learn even more.
Fatema arrived in Connecticut from Syria with her husband and son over a year ago. Fatema told us, “I started cooking once I got married. I did not cook before that. When I was a child, I was in the kitchen with my mom watching her cook." She enjoys preparing traditional Syrian food, and says “Now that I’m a mom, I like cooking shawarma and chicken kebab.” Her most used spices are black pepper, dried mint, and special Arabic spice mixes like curry. Fatema taught at a cooking demo with Students of Salaam at Yale at New Haven Free Public Library in December 2016, and made Sfeeha, as well as a rich Basbousa dessert. “I want to share Syrian cooking - something that I love. I most look forward to sharing my culture.”
Ghadeer, a refugee from Homs, Syria, arrived in the U.S. in 2016 with her husband and three children. In her homeland, she was a housewife and her husband was a glass artist. Ghadeer was featured as one of the talented cooks in Sanctuary Kitchen’s first food demonstration, and returned for the “Learn to Make Ma’amoul” and “Learn to Make Mahshi” cooking classes.
As a child, Ghadeer enjoyed watching her mother cook. At fifteen years old, she got married and was responsible for cooking for her own family. Her favorite dishes to prepare are roasted chicken and okra, and she loves using traditional Syrian shawarma spices, kofta spices and paprika.
“I love cooking for my family and friends,” Ghadeer says. She is hoping to expand her hobby to create a home cooking business in New Haven featuring authentic Syrian dishes. She is excited that people will learn more about her culture and enjoy her cooking at Sanctuary Kitchen events.
Afeefa is a Syrian refugee from Dara’a and a mother of eight who loves to cook for her family and friends. When asked about her experience, she says proudly “I have over 40 years of culinary experience…in my own home! I started to cook when I was 12 years old and learned step by step. I married at 14 years old and have been cooking for my family ever since.” Afeefa moved to New Haven almost a year ago as a result of the ongoing conflict in Syria, and has already participated in a cooking demo open to the community at the New Haven Free Public Library where she taught attendees how to make lentil soup. She is excited to teach cooking classes through Sanctuary Kitchen, and has ideas for Syrian products that could be sold CitySeed Farmers’ Market. “I want to share the Syrian and Arab culture, the different spices and etiquette of Arabic cooking. I look forward to seeing people enjoying my culture. I also look forward to meeting new people.”
Chabusiku is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who arrived in New Haven two years ago, after spending over twenty years living in a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Tanzania. She is a wife and the mother of eight children, including a newborn!
Chabusiku is the first of twelve children in her family. She learned to cook from her mother, and began cooking herself at the age of seven. When asked about her favorite Congolese food, she replied: “Everything!” She especially enjoys spicy foods and using peppers in her dishes. Chabusiku is excited to be featured in a Sanctuary Kitchen food demo., and said she wants to share her traditional Congolese cuisine and culture as well as to make new friends. Welcome to New Haven and Sanctuary Kitchen, Chabusiku!
Mazen and Rawan
Meet husband and wife Mazan and Rawan, the talented cooks who prepared a traditional Syrian meal for our 1st Sanctuary Kitchen supper club. Mazan and Razan are refugees from Syria, who fled their home city of Homs – where Mazan worked as a chef - and arrived in the United States in the fall of 2015. They have three children, a boy (17 years old) and two girls (9 and 15 years old). The family’s favorite dishes are “mahshee” (stuffed vegetables) and “kebba” (grilled meat with bulgur, onions and spices). Mazan is passionate about cooking and Rawan loves to help him in the kitchen. About Saturday’s supper club, they remarked: “We are looking forward to sharing authentic Syrian cuisine and hope that everyone will enjoy it!”
Homa is a refugee from the Jaghori District of Afghanistan and came to New Haven in 2015 with her husband and three children. She is passionate about cooking, and has been catering for IRIS - Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services week-long core classes for newly-arrived refugees to New Haven.
Homa's favorite traditional food is "Mantu" - meat-stuffed dumplings, one of the most popular dishes in Afghanistan. When she was a child, she was taught how to prepare this special dish from her father, who was the primary cook when she was growing up after the loss of her mother. Homa also enjoys baking. While her repertoire in Afghanistan was limited to preparing homemade naan, since living in the U.S. she has learned to bake desserts from watching YouTube! Back home in Afghanistan, Homa said most people where she lived did not spend money preparing sweet desserts, but rather on nourishing entrees for the family. About cooking for Sanctuary Kitchen's 2nd Supper Club, Homa said: "I most look forward to preparing my traditional food and sharing my culture," adding, "I hope everyone will enjoy together!" Welcome to New Haven and Sanctuary Kitchen Homa!
Neema is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who arrived in New Haven a year ago. At age seven, she fled her home in the Congo along with her family, and spent the next eighteen years living in a refugee camp in the neighboring country of Tanzania. She is a wife and mother of 3 children. When asked about her cooking, Neema replied: “I like a little of everything – a little salt, a little spice, a little sweet.” She looks forward to the opportunity to share her food, meet new people and practice speaking English.