I was born in Kabul on the cusp of the 1990s Afghan civil war. The Afghanistan my parents grew up in was very different to the warzone I knew. They fell in love at university and went on dates to see westerns at the cinema. We left our home to seek refuge: that was a lifeline.
After fleeing to Mumbai, my mum and I were forced to move to the UK and were separated from my father and sisters. We lived in north London and were incredibly poor. My mum didn’t know the asylum process. I couldn’t tell you any memories because I’ve blocked them out.
When I met my father and sisters again a few years later, in 2000, I didn’t know who they were. They couldn’t speak English and were racially abused. We moved to Hackney, which was more welcoming for refugees. It was life-changing, and I realised why representation is so important.
Aiming to diversify London’s food scene, I set up an Afghan-barbecue-inspired catering company called Cue Point with my partner Josh Moroney in 2017. During the pandemic, I realised that lots of London hospitality workers were not sufficiently provided for by the welfare system, especially in the lower-level jobs that are largely done by refugees and immigrants, often on zero-hours contracts. These people can be doctors or lawyers who fled their country but, because of obstacles like language qualifications, they can’t progress to the higher rungs of UK hospitality.
Now, I’m launching Cue Point Kitchen, a scheme to improve the prospects of people working in the lower levels of London hospitality by providing English-language acquisition, finance management and catering qualifications.
Anyone from a refugee, immigrant or racialised background can apply for our programmes for free. To kickstart the project, we’ve launched a crowdfunder with a goal of £30k. Through Cue Point Kitchen, I hope to get people into careers and to build some sort of sustainable solution. If we’re going to be proud of having one of the world’s most culturally diverse food industries here in London, it should be reflected in our employability from top to bottom.
Find out more about the Cue Point Fundraising for Social Impact Restaurant crowdfunder campaign. It ends on Aug 15.
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