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Migrateful Cookery Classes

  • Things to do, Classes and workshops
Migrateful cookery class with Zineb

Time Out says

Nestled in the corner of a little park on Corporation Row, Clerkenwell, is one of London’s most inspiring kitchens. A dozen paying customers are lined up around carefully organised cook-stations, listening raptly to the secrets of Moroccan cooking for beginners from Zineb, a cook who learned the art in North Africa from her mother, and has honed it - not in the synthetic, macho arena of a restaurant - but through hours, days and years of cooking food for her family and friends. 

I'm on a mission: to learn practical skills that spark joy, save cash and help the planet, with a little help from London’s finest talent. This evening is organised by award-winning food charity Migrateful. I’m hovering helpfully in the background, cloth in hand, as a “class-sidekick”, aka volunteer at one of their family-style meals. Punters pay to come and learn to cook an authentic, delicious meal with a migrant chef - and then relax together with wine and feast on their labours. It’s £45 for a “Family Style” class or £70 for a more in-depth, “Station Style” learning session. It's a social enterprise which really puts the spice into volunteering. 

This evening with Zineb, it’s chicken tagine night. Her pupils are a nice, eager mix of learners; some stylish international students on a quirky night out; an older couple from Cornwall who are Migrateful veterans, back for more; and more than one serious foodie. As an ice-breaker, we all exchange a little food story, about a dish that means something to us personally. The examples are as diverse as the group (though roast chicken does feature more than once). My northern roots show through, and I get misty eyed remembering a chip butty. Then Zineb gets everyone cracking with the food prep, and chopping, chatter, tips and questions flow.

Migrateful was dreamed up in 2017 at a Tower Hamlets time bank when the organiser was struck by the traditional cooking skills and stories shared by so many migrant women who joined the project. Since then it’s bubbled up irrepressibly, with locations across the city, at Hackney School of Food, St Ethelberga’s in Liverpool Street, All Saints in Peckham, Holdspace in Islington and of course the Clerkenwell flagship. The concept is simple and brilliant. Migrateful trains talented asylum-seeker, migrant and refugee chefs to share their cuisine, their skills and their stories with groups of learners, whose ticket money is stirred back into their pot. Since 2017 they’ve staged over 3000 classes and empowered 79 migrant cooks to run them. 

As I watch Zineb flip chickens and share stories of her mother insisting tomatoes should always be peeled, with an easy, ebullient authority, it’s clear to see why this setup works so well. This isn’t a dry technical transaction; we’re sharing culture, curiosity and experiences - which makes for a fun dinner afterwards. It really is family style. I’m sitting next to Zineb’s oldest daughter, who facilitated the evening’s session with dazzling efficiency - and her younger daughter, who drops by for a bit to eat after her Saturday night GCSE revision sesh. Both girls chat with impressive confidence, intelligence and nuance about their perspective as next generation Londoners. London is, of course, one of the world’s great melting pot cities. And food, in a city where most people have arrived from somewhere else, is a vital language of exchange, heritage, shared experience and love. These evenings with Migrateful are special because they serve up a vivid taste of that, along with the handy tagine skills. 

Book a class
Volunteer (and eat for free) 

Written by
Caroline McGinn


Opening hours:
6.30pm to 9pm
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