Refugee Food Festival: an Ansamble restaurant promotes Syrian cuisine
This year, nearly 50 French caterers opened their kitchens all over France to around fifty refugee chefs. Ansamble took part in the Refugee Food Festival event on October 22 in Rennes, offering participants the opportunity to come together around a common passion, cooking, and to discover new savors from elsewhere. Chef Arnaud Besnier and Syrian refugee Chef Hadil Jlilati look back on their shared experience in the kitchen.
What was your collaboration at the Refugee Food Festival like and what did you learn from it?
Arnaud Besnier For me, it was a first! I had never heard of this festival before. I thought it was great. It promotes refugee chefs, and provides an opportunity to discuss other recipes and ways of cooking. During this collaboration, it was mainly the kitchen team who worked with Hadil on the menu starters and desserts. She played chef for a day to lead the team and it went very well, there was a lot of exchange between them. As for me, I mainly worked upstream to prepare the event (editor's note: general organization, taking orders for the desired ingredients, etc.).
Hadil Jlilati I learnt a lot about French cuisine, about starters and desserts, alike. It wasn’t easy for me at the beginning as it was my first time cooking for contract catering. I am used to working in modest-sized kitchens and particularly preparing smaller quantities. But in the end, it went well. The teams helped and supported me a lot, it was a great experience.
What did you learn and take away from this day of exchange?
AB The thing that particularly struck me is how open cuisine still is, be it French or Syrian. It’s a world where there’s always something to learn and where everything can eventually be combined.
HJ I am very pleased to have worked with such a large team. All of this was new to me.
The thing that particularly struck me is how open cuisine still is, be it French or Syrian.
Chef Arnaud Besnier
Arnaud, how would you qualify French cuisine? And you Hadil, Syrian cuisine?
AB French cuisine is world famous! What I particularly like about this cuisine is how open-ended it is. Once the culinary basics have been established, they can be adapted to other styles of cuisine from around the world (Syrian, Italian, etc.). French cuisine is also synonymous with sharing. But above all it is a passion for me!
HJ I agree with Arnaud. For me, Syrian cuisine is rich in all respects and I was particularly happy to be able to present it to a large number of people today.
What do you like cooking the most and why?
AB Without hesitation, pastries; my péché mignon! I have a sweet tooth. I trained as a Pastry Chef before joining Ansamble. This is a very rigorous job; you need to be meticulous and stick to the recipe.
HJ I also prefer desserts, in general. I often use rose water and orange blossom in my recipes. The smell is sweet and pleasant and adds that extra finishing touch to desserts.
To sum up, Arnaud do you have a message for Hadil? And reciprocally?
AB We integrated Hadil without knowing neither her level nor skills, and she did very well! Although communicating wasn’t always that easy because of the language barrier we must continue to share this passion! Everyone loves cooking. I would like to thank you Hadil for participating in the festival, and wish you all the best for the future!
HJ Thank you very much Arnaud for your confidence in me and the responsibilities you gave me. For me, it was a great and totally new experience!