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New dinner series supports Sydney refugees

On February 25, social enterprise Welcome Merchant launched a new initiative in Waterloo, which aims to promote the culinary talents of a range of chefs and food artisans from refugee backgrounds.

The event included a six-course dinner catered by talented refugee chefs from Sri Lanka (Chef Krish from Bavan Foods), Ethiopia (Chef Sara from Ethiopian Cuisine Wollongong) and Syria (Chef Racha and Chef Nidal from Racha’s Syrian Kitchen).

In attendance were Jenny Leong (Member for Newtown) and members of the media along with friends and supporters of Welcome Merchant.

Founder of Welcome Merchant, Marjorie Tenchavez, said, “Welcome Merchant was launched on March 20 last year, on Harmony Day, to provide support to refugee-powered small business, especially during the pandemic.

“We started on Instagram first, then we started a website with the aim of launching Australia’s first consolidated register of refugee-powered businesses, and we’ve had great support from the community.

“This year we’ll be working with the chefs and other refugee entrepreneurs like Aunty’s Ginger Tonic to organise cooking classes and ‘Social Suppers’.

“Our hope is that these curated dining experiences will showcase and promote the talented and passionate chefs, who are experts at their respective cuisines, to help support the growth of their small businesses, and to fund skill-building workshops for the other refugee entrepreneurs.”

Diners enjoy a six-course dinner at the soft launch of Welcome Merchant’s Social Supper series.
Photo: Danish Ravi

Chef Krish from Bavan Foods said at the soft launch, “I appreciate all of you for supporting Welcome Merchant. In future, I hope we can arrange to give special foods.

“Many refugees don’t know how to develop their skills, lots of people have got their own skills but don’t know how to bring these skills to the community. They don’t know, please help them. I really appreciate all of you.”

MP Jenny Leong said: “During this pandemic and during this crisis, the people that have actually been the hardest hit by the kinds of changes that have happened have been those people that have gotten absolutely no government support; that have been treated and marginalised really badly by government policies previously and have not got the social connections and support networks that exist yet, but have an incredible resilience and commitment to be able to struggle and to survive.

“If there was ever a time for us to be supporting refugee-powered businesses in our community, now is that time.”

Proceeds from a Sri Lankan Cooking Class on April 25 will go to the refugee chef and towards skill-building workshops for other refugee entrepreneurs that Welcome Merchant works with. Get your tickets here.

See and @welcomemerchant on Instagram for future dates for the Welcome Merchant Social Supper Series and to access the directory of refugee-powered businesses.


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