Posted in: Food & Drink

How This Iranian Refugee Chef Constructed A Higher Life (And A Catering Firm)


“Simply imagine in your self,” 46-year-old chef Nasrin Rejali stated when requested what recommendation she’d give refugees like herself who fled to the US to discover a higher life. Initially hailing from Iran and touchdown in New York in 2016 by the use of Turkey, the divorced, single mom of three now has her personal enterprise cooking pop-up dinners and takeout meals in New York whereas promoting conventional Iranian desserts on-line. On this Voices in Meals story, Rejali tells Anna Rahmanan in regards to the refugee organizations which have helped her alongside the best way, the kind of eatery she hopes to in the future open and the way COVID-19 truly afforded her some respite.

In Iran, should you don’t have a start certificates, you may’t research or actually have something. My son had a problem together with his start certificates, so one in every of my pals advised me to go to Turkey and inform them about my downside. So I went there to try to give my youngsters a greater life. It was actually laborious. I went to the United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees and advised them, “I don’t have a passport and neither do my youngsters.” I advised them my story and so they helped me with all the pieces and [eventually] despatched me to the US two and a half years later.

I’m so glad right here as a result of my youngsters are so glad. What I like about the US is that they respect girls and it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a person or a girl, you may be whoever you wish to be. No person tells you: “You’re a girl so you may’t do this.”

It was scary to return to the US and not using a home or an condo. I went to a shelter with my three youngsters. That was so laborious as a result of my English isn’t good and I didn’t get any advantages from the federal government. At one level, my youngsters and I requested the Worldwide Rescue Committee if we might go to New Jersey from New York. They discovered us an condo there, however I nonetheless didn’t have a job or advantages. We went to the church for some meals and, after that, I advised my youngsters that I do know it’s laborious, however we should always return to New York as a result of there are extra selections for work and faculties there.

“The virus has taken lots of issues from me, but it surely has additionally given me the chance to start out my very own enterprise and I obtained lots of good suggestions. Possibly, if it wasn’t for COVID-19, I’d nonetheless be working at a catering firm.”

I requested the IRC to not assist me discover a residence however to search out me a job, and so they discovered one for me at Eat Offbeat. It’s a catering firm that hires refugees from all over the world to work with cooks. I labored there for 3 years, till COVID-19 hit.

[Then], I misplaced my job and needed to keep residence and it made me loopy as a result of I’m used to working. I began making conventional Iranian desserts at residence and one in every of my pals advised me that a few of her pals in New York would possibly assist me begin a enterprise. I made an LLC, her pals helped me with my model and, since New Yr’s Eve, I’ve had my very own enterprise. Twice a month I do a Persian pop-up dinner and I’ve a web site the place I promote desserts ― Nasrin’s Kitchen. I make Persian granola, Persian baklava ― something from Iran. Proper now, I cook dinner at my good friend’s restaurant however I’m searching for one other kitchen.

My dream was all the time to open a Persian teahouse the place I might make conventional Iranian meals. In the US, I see individuals simply fascinated about work, work, work. Even after they go to events they discuss work. I feel there’s something lacking and we needs to be giving a few of Iran to New York.

[People always tell me to open a restaurant], however I don’t need individuals to assume that they’ll’t come to my eatery as a result of they don’t have cash. At a teahouse, they’ll come and have tea, dance and have a cheerful time with none issues. When individuals are glad, work is extra stunning and you’ve got extra vitality. It’s not nearly going to a restaurant, sitting, consuming and spending cash. I wish to assist individuals and exhibit Persian tradition.

Individuals inform me I ought to begin working with refugees and Black individuals however, since I’ve been in a shelter, I feel that working with individuals coming from shelters and serving to them construct a life [is an even better] concept.

I do know lots of households are struggling. I even misplaced my aunt to COVID-19. The virus has taken lots of issues from me, but it surely has additionally given me the chance to start out my very own enterprise and I obtained lots of good suggestions. Possibly, if it wasn’t for COVID-19, I’d nonetheless be working at a catering firm. Now I’ve my very own enterprise, so it’s actually good for me.