Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
1800x500 Migrateful ;

King's staff take part in online cookery classes to support refugee charity Migrateful

From daal and paratha to Lebanese spicy beans and rice, King’s staff mastered new recipes with chefs from all over the world, thanks to virtual cookery classes with refugee charity Migrateful. The project was organised by King’s Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) to help support Migrateful during the COVID-19 pandemic and contribute to research into memory and migration.

Migrateful works with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants struggling to access employment due to legal, linguistic and social barriers. Their mission is to empower and celebrate refugees and vulnerable migrants by supporting them to run their own cookery classes. The chefs have found that the experience of teaching the public provides ideal conditions not just for learning English and building confidence but also for promoting contact and cultural exchange with the wider community.

The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted Migrateful as they were forced to cancel 60 classes and consequently needed to raise over £40,000 to survive. In a bid to keep the charity alive and continue supporting their chefs, Migrateful quickly moved their cookery classes online.

780x440 Migrateful 5

To help support Migrateful during COVID-19, the AHRI organised cookery classes for King’s staff every Thursday evening in May and sponsored their places. While getting to grips with a new recipe together, participants had the opportunity to hear about different experiences of migration from the chefs and share their own stories.

After cooking, it was time to eat! The groups shared conversation over their meals, joined by researchers from across King’s who explore the topic of migration and memory, including Dr Sarah Fine (Senior Lecturer in Philosophy), Professor Anna Reading (Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute and Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries) and Dr Leonie Ansems de Vries (Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Chair of the Migration Research Group).

It’s been such an uplifting project to work on in the midst of the challenges we are all facing, but asylum seekers and refugees especially, during the pandemic and the lockdown. Part of my current research is on migration and memory so I was really keen to see if virtual cook-a-longs might be an innovative way to explore how embodied knowledge and migration stories could be shared through connective cooking. We were really thrilled that participants said the cook-a-longs generated a sense of belonging and connection that countered the isolation they are experiencing during COVID 19.– Professor Anna Reading, Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute and Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries

‘Chef Ahmed's Lebanese cookery class was fun and the food was delicious!’, said Haf Rees, Operations and Network Coordinator (London). ‘As well as learning the new recipe, I enjoyed listening to his stories and experiences in Lebanon.’

The AHRI also commissioned artists to join the sessions to create a record of the discussions and add to the conversations with their experience of migration.

‘The lockdown has hit migrant artists very badly so we commissioned three migrant artists to join the virtual cook-a-longs and produce artworks reflecting on the experience,’ explained Professor Anna Reading. ‘Now we will have vibrant material legacy for the future.’

One of these artists was Anna Virabyan, who previously collaborated with King’s Migration Research Group on the Migrant Voices in London project. After the Migrateful cookery session, Anna produced Watercolour Oriental Still Life, inspired by the memories it brought back of her childhood.

780x440 Anna V
The Migrateful cookery session brought me back to my childhood! Bright culture, traditional food, connection with the family! I remember fruits in a metal vase at home, bright textiles around…Twice I experienced what is it to be a refugee – first time as a child, we lost our home, we left it all. So thanks for those memories which I transferred in the Oriental Still Life. I hope this painting will bring colourful memories to those who treasure their culture and traditions no matter where they are! – Anna Virabyan – award winning artist and refugee

The idea for this Service opportunity arose from discussions between Dr Ed Stevens (AHRI Manager) and his friend Dr Ammar Azzouz, an analyst at international design and engineering organisation Arup and visiting researcher at Oxford. Ammar’s research focuses on the destruction and reconstruction of history, culture and the built environment in times of conflict, with a particular focus on the ongoing crisis in Syria since 2011. Ed and Ammar were keen to leverage their respective organisations to support Migrateful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ammar’s colleagues from Arup also joined the classes alongside King’s staff.

Katie Barron, Communications Officer (Science Gallery London) said: ‘The Migrateful class showed me the power of food to bring people together, which is even more important at the moment. I really enjoyed sharing different experiences of food and cooking and have booked another class with Migrateful so that my family and I can cook together while we can’t see each other.’

Since 2017, Migrateful have worked with over 40 gifted chefs that have grown into passionate teachers and advocates for their rights. They hope to create a positive environment in their classes that enables the exchange of knowledge and experience, thus reducing prejudice and fostering connection.

Whilst waiting for refugee status I wasn’t allowed to work and didn’t know what was going to happen. Migrateful has been like a family to me, it filled me with love, it was a place where I could belong and people made me feel valued and trusted.– Habib, Migrateful chef and trustee

Sign up for one of Migrateful’s online cookery classes to learn recipes from around the world and help support migrants and refugees rebuild their lives.

Find out more about how King’s is contributing to understanding and responding to the global issue of forced displacement and helping to realise the educational potential of refugees on the King’s Sanctuary Programme webpage.

In this story

Anna Reading

Anna Reading

Professor of Culture and Creative Industries, Director of the AHRI

Ed Stevens

Ed Stevens

Impact & Knowledge Exchange Manager

Leonie  Ansems de Vries

Leonie Ansems de Vries

Reader in International Politics

Latest news