Overcoming the odds through determination & food
It's always great to hear wonderful stories about determination and making the most out of a bad situation, but it feels all the more sweeter when the story features one our very own UK culinary centres, Vaughan’s Cookery School.
On their most recent professional cookery course, Vaughan’s had the interesting and rewarding experience of having two refugees from Syria, Mohamad and Kam, who, although they both came from Homs, did not know each other there, Kam being a married lady, while Mohamed is a single man.
Although both of them already had excellent culinary skills, they needed to understand more about European-style dishes and cooking techniques to increase their chances of getting a job in the industry. They successfully completed the Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality Level 2 Award in Culinary Skills and passed with flying colours. Their places on the course were sponsored by Building Bridges, a project funded through The Big Lottery Fund, which is designed to help anyone who is unemployed increase their chances of gaining employment. The opportunity was made available to anyone registered on the Building Bridges scheme but it was only these two refugees who took up the challenge. They are now ready and willing to find employment in the food sector.
Homs is the third largest city in Syria after Aleppo and Damascus and much of it was destroyed in a much-publicised siege. Both Mohamad and Kam had to leave with their respective families as they fled for their lives. To arrive in a new and unfamiliar country with no money, no possessions and no ability to speak the language, having gone through trauma and disruption that the civil war created, is something that most of us can’t even begin to imagine.
Mohamad worked in his Uncle’s bakery for many years and then set up his own café/restaurant, selling savoury and sweet pastries as take-away items to help make the business profitable. On the course he showed his skill, not just in his ability to cook delicious food, but also in his knife skills and his knowledge of ingredients and how to ‘marry’ them well.
Kam didn’t have a background in catering but had always enjoyed cooking and demonstrated on the course that she has an amazing palate. She can create interesting flavours, not just in the traditional food she is used to making, but also can add a ‘twist’ and ‘zing’ to European-style dishes with equal flair.
As well as achieving this professional qualification, they also improved their English so that they are now excited and ready to take on a job in the catering industry and be an asset to any employer, particularly if they are encouraged to use their Syrian ‘flair’ for creating taste and flavour.