When a group of UVA students wanted to find a way to engage with the refugee community in Charlottesville, they immediately thought of trying to bring people together through food. They had heard of a similar initiative, Refugee Food Festival, which had been successful in Europe and decided to model something similar in Charlottesville. Their new organization, Taste of Home, “seeks to promote cultural exchange” by organizing pop-up events at local restaurants, which showcase food prepared by refugee chefs.
The very first pop-up dinner was held in early May at the Southern Crescent restaurant in Belmont. Heba and Nsreen Ghazoul, sisters-in-law who were resettled by the IRC in Charlottesville, prepared a feast of Syrian specialties. The dishes included hummus, tabbouleh, mutabbal, sambusak, and many traditional Syrian pastries.
Following the dinner, just over 75% of the proceeds were given to Heba and Nsreen as compensation for their time and efforts to prepare the meal. The rest of the proceeds covered the cost of ingredients, in addition to a donation to the IRC.
“The nostalgia in food is an important way to remember where one comes from, and is a way to share a very “human” and personal part of one’s culture” wrote Mayan Braude, one of the organization’s original founders. Though she is graduating from UVA this year, she has passed on her role to younger students who are excited to continue what she has started.
Once the school year starts back up in August, the initiative’s new student leaders plan to host more pop-up events with refugee chefs, in conjunction with the IRC. Stay tuned for more!