rESTAURANT: tASTES OF dAMASCUS
Tastes of Damascus, Zaatar NGO's last project, is an eco-friendly restaurant serving healthy vegetarian Middle Eastern cuisine and offering training and job opportunities to asylum-seekers and refugees.
So far, Za'atar NGO has trained three groups of ten refugees and asylum-seekers (total of 30 students) in the basic skills required to work in the restaurant industry in Greece. The Restaurant Training Course takes place at our day-center organization, the Orange House, and are taught in Greek, which greatly improves their chances of getting a job in after graduating from the training. The Restaurant Training Course is taught by a woman from Syria, who also is the full-time manager at Tastes of Damascus. Our students receive basic training in making all the most common dishes in both Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine.
After completing the Restaurant Training Course, students are given the opportunity to apply to work at Tastes of Damascus, with our lawyer helping to complete the paperwork that is required to hire them. Employees receive a standard salary while being trained to improve their cooking skills and their knowledge of the Greek language. The goal is that after few months, employees/students will be able to go work in another restaurant and maintain their job, allowing us to welcome more students to be trained.
Tastes of Damascus opened in February 2020. We offer a vegetarian and
vegan menu with all the most famous Syrian dishes such as hummus, tabbouleh salad and of course falafel plates and sandwiches. Excitingly, Tastes of Damascus instantly became a hit in the neighborhood, mostly due to our great community spreading word through social media and word of mouth. We already have regular customers coming back for more!
We have currently hired two asylum-seekers who are from Syria, and we
are continuing to conduct more interviews in order to hire more trainees in the near future.
an in depth look: our priorities at Tastes of Damascus
As with all our projects, Tastes of Damascus and the Restaurant Training
Courses aim to be as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible:
- no meat products served/used
- all cleaning products are eco-friendly
- no plastic straws
- donate all leftovers to a local charity
- oil used to fry is recycled
- promote bringing your own takeout containers
Integration works both ways.
Since Greece is not a very diverse country, we believe that our project has a great impact on breaking barriers. Most of our customers are Greek people coming to enjoy an authentic falafel or discover new flavours. Most of them taste at our restaurant their first Syrian food.
A long-term goal of our project is therefore to open minds and widen horizons, making Greek people more curious of foreign cultures and others. We aim at promoting the Syrian culture while changing locals’ conceptions of refugees as a weight for society, demonstrating how they instead can bring new flavours and experiences to the city.