Welcome to Melbourne’s first pop-up cooking school run by refugees and asylum seekers – free to feed.

free to feed is an initiative created by social enterprise, free to. Their organisation is based on the principles of empowerment, cultural exchange and dynamic communities.

The free to feed project builds on these principles and employs refugees and those seeking asylum within Australia, encouraging them to share their skills, teach others and be empowered by the dignity of work. For many of these people, teaching cooking classes at free to feed is their first job in Australia.

free to feed is a mutually beneficial experience – refugees and asylum seekers are given a chance to work in Australia and make connections with people, while those already living here are given the opportunity to learn about new cultures and cuisines and make connections with people from all over the world.

The team behind free to feed understands that being out of work can be both challenging and disheartening. By providing employment opportunities, refugees and asylum seekers have a chance to contribute to society and to set themselves up for a life in Australia.

Each cooking class is unique, with different themes and cuisines running all the time. Classes are held at hospitality venues across Melbourne – anywhere from Fitzroy, to Carlton and Thornbury. Later in the year free to feed is also heading West. Cooking classes are held in private homes, for special occasions, and for functions that need a little spicing up!

free to feed currently employs four instructors – Hamed, Niro, Mahshid and Norisa – each with their own story and specialty to share.

Originally from Iran, Hamed offers classes about street food and the most popular dishes of Tehran. He teaches participants how to make delicious foods like mouth-watering felafel, slow-cooked rice dishes and is becoming famous for his dessert repertoire, which includes Persian baghlava and saffron rice pudding. Shirin also teaches Persian cuisine but focuses more on traditional stews and rice dishes.

Niro is famous for his delicious curries. Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Niro certainly knows what he is talking about when is comes to special spices and the perfect ingredients for a belly-warming bowl of deliciousness. Niro takes class-goers on a journey through his homeland re-visiting his childhood family meals.

Mahshid’s classes focus on heart-warming Middle Eastern style dishes. Her passion comes through in each one of her classes as she guides participants through using classic Middle Eastern ingredients like pomegranate molasses, barberries, sumac, orange blossom and more.

free to feed also runs extra special extra special, hands-on experience designed for kids aged 6-11. Norisa happily guides kids through wholesome meals like kebabs, meatballs and felafel as well as some delicious Persian desserts.

The free to feed project is currently setting up a kitchen headquarters in Thornbury, which will help them support more people seeking asylum and offer more dynamic and delicious cooking experiences for the people of Melbourne. So watch this space!

For more information on free to feed cooking classes and to hear more about the great work they are doing, head to the free to website or give them a call on 0449 955 085 or 0422 671 632 – they love to chat!

Words by Ashleigh Whitehill |  Cat lover. Tea enthusiast. Twitter

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