A young migrant prepares a dish in the Gustamundo kitchen (ANSA)
A young migrant prepares a dish in the Gustamundo kitchen (ANSA)

A restaurant in Rome enables migrants to cook dishes from their home country for Italians and tell their stories. The proceeds go to the cooks and finance aid projects.

Gustamundo allows foreign chefs into its kitchen so they can prepare multi-ethnic dinners. The restaurant’s goal: to counter anti-immigrant sentiments and to show how positive their presence can be for Italy. Once a week, guests can enjoy authentic cuisine from foreign countries, and learn about the migrant experience.

The idea to set up the project was born at the end of 2016 by volunteers trying to find a way to help newcomers in Italy integrate, tell their stories, and support themselves. ''Since we have a restaurant, the first thought was to do something in gastronomy'', Pasquale Compagnone, the owner of Gustamundo, told ANSA. Compagnone has been managing the Mexican restaurant El Pueblo in Rome for over 10 years, and has long volunteered for different solidarity projects.

Help migrants tell their stories

“The dinner is about solidarity and getting to know countries like Syria, Libya, Pakistan and the people who have fled from these difficult places,'' Compagnone said.  The response, he said, had been enthusiastic, the weekly dinners were of ''high quality because migrants cook as if they were in their country.”

After each dinner, the migrant cooks talks about their story and try to help guests understand why they left their country.

The dinners' proceeds go into projects that help migrants and to the chefs themselves. ''Some [of our cooks] are able to pay for a room, although this is not a steady job. We have also funded cuisine and Italian language courses to give them useful tools to look for a job,'' Compagnone said.

The joy of authentic cuisine

Some of the people who cook at Gustamundo used to work as chefs back home, too. For them, getting back into a kitchen is ''an incredible joy, you can see it in their eyes,” Compagnone observed. “They never expected to cook in Rome the way they used to cook in their restaurants.''

Among the migrant cooks are Mariem, a women's rights activist from Libya, and Mahmud from Syria.

In future, the restaurant plans to invite students from catering and hospitality training institutes so they can get acquainted with the project and learn from migrants how to prepare the typical dishes of their country.

 

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