A fulfilling journey from Africa to Italy
|December 27th, 2016|
|tags:||Afghanistan, Africa Experience, Hamed Ahmadi, refugee|
The eatery, whose menu represents the journey its chefs made from Africa to Italy, is the brainchild of Hamed Ahmadi, a movie director who fled from Afghanistan to Italy in 2006.
Currently run by nine business partners including Nigerians, Ethiopians and Sudanese, Africa Experience is also the result of Mr. Ahmadi’s very successful previous projects: Orient Experience 1 and Orient Experience 2.
Hadi Noori, one of the Africa Experience business partners, explained: “I left Iran at 15 and throughout the journey towards Europe I regularly had to stop and work, often in restaurants, where I learned how to cook by maximising the flavour of ingredients I found in different countries.
“I met Hamed when I arrived in Italy in 2007; he was a coordinator at the Venetian homeless shelter for refugees I was hosted in and led around forty under-18 asylum seekers who started organising parties and preparing dishes inspired by their journey to Europe, a voyage that could take up to five years”.
Mr. Noori emphasised how the lives of many of those youngsters changed forever when Hamed organised an event where the hosts were asked to cook the most significant course they had prepared during the long journey to salvation. Those forty dishes became the menu of both Orient Experience 1, that opened in 2012 in the centre of the lagoon city and its second branch, launched in 2014 next to Venice University.
This fortunate culinary journey from Afghanistan to Europe led to Africa Experience, whose menu is an itinerary from South Africa to the shores of Sicily.
All fusion dishes are culturally contaminated, as the recipes have gradually evolved due to the incredible journey of people who have mixed ingredients and flavours.
The new restaurant’s chefs, who are ex-refugees themselves, were all selected in a cooking competition that took inspiration from television show MasterChef and was run with the help of several homeless shelters for refugees in the area.
Is the story of any ex-refugee currently working in one of Hamed Ahmadi’s businesses particularly remarkable? “My story is their journey as well. We all fled our home in search of a better life and once here we experienced manic jobs and internships before having the opportunity to build up our own future and profession”, highlighted Hadi Noori.
Within the first few weeks since its opening night, Africa Experience, with its typical African interior where each area is uniquely decorated, has received positive and extensive media coverage both locally and nationally.
“However, our biggest achievement is the overwhelmingly good reaction received from the public. Most of our clients are locals, which means our business is breaking down a stereotype by proving that immigration is not necessarily a burden on society; it is a phenomenon that can contribute to the community instead”, added Mr. Noori.
The new restaurant, located a short walk from famous Santa Margherita, comes as Italy is struggling to house more than 170,000 asylum seekers altogether. Data released by the Home Office reveal that over 180,000 refugees have reached the Mediterranean country in less than two years; therefore, more and more people need a place to stay.
Putting these migrants in touch with local communities may be the best way of promoting integration. Not by chance it all started in a reception centre for Africa Experience.