Integrating traditions, culture and getting to know each other better through food is in a nutshell what Cuisine Lab stands for. Unique in the sense that it has an integrative approach in bringing locals, refugees and expats together. It started in November last year with a small pop-up event and has evolved into a vibrant community with a big four days festival in June this year.
How it all began
It was Dan Stein, Impact Hub Geneva Member who was there from the start. “I was assisting a friend with a food project, working with refugee chefs in Athens, Greece. It sparked my interested to have a better understanding of what was going on with asylum seekers and refugees in Geneva. When I started learning more about it, I realised there was a need for a project like this in Geneva.”
The first prototype events
Switzerland hosts around 50.000 refugees and around 5.000 are based in Geneva. Not all of these people have access to kitchen facilities and some of them are living from microwave meals. In coordination with the Hospice General, Cuisine Lab offered a few of them the opportunity to prepare their meals in a different setting for other people. Despite communication and cultural differences, partly solved with the help of translators, the evenings turned out to be huge successes.
Four months later more people joined the Cuisine Lab team. Some of them Hub Members, other ones with experience in food and refugee projects. In November 2016 Cuisine Lab hosted their first official pop-up event: a Syrian Night. “We put it on Facebook. And it was sold out immediately. It made a little bit of money for the two cooks and it turned out to be a great success.“
One thing led to another. A teambuilding evening was hosted, quickly followed by an Afghan social cooking event (picture on the right), which included dancing in December and another Syrian pop-up event in February this year. Cuisine Lab was ready to launch more.
April 27th this year the team organised a Sri Lankan Night. This event turned out to be a huge game-changer. “First we had asked the people cooking what they wanted to share with the community, we worked with them to design their own soirée. We were so happy to see how they came up with great ideas like: a game with funny assignments to get to know each other, playing their music and dancing. My personal highlight was the fact that participants had built a Hindu Altar and started to give blessings to people as they entered. A beautiful surprise for everybody.
From hosting an event, we created a movement, a community. We were giving refugees and asylum seekers the opportunity to celebrate parts of their culture and identity that are welcome here and help them recognize that there is a space for them in the Swiss community.“
I believe through sharing our traditions, culture and food, people connect with their hearts, creating positive and powerful experiences.
“Together with this new community and local sponsors we founded The Refugee Cultural Festival in June of this year. Four days of culture, music and food events throughout different locations in Geneva. Impact Hub Geneva hosted a big part of these events in their space. One highlight of the festival was the Refugee Cultural Soirée, held on World Refugee Day which was attended by over 400 people. After the festival in June, we did an interactive cooking experience for the Family Business Network also at the Impact Hub, an event in partnership with ITC at the World Trade Organisation – Aid for Trade, and a group picnic.“
“We are still growing and right now we are looking for a space that can host 70+ people. In order to become more sustainable we need to scale up. If anybody has ideas, let us know! Furthermore we are going to continue with organising more events. Several catering opportunities are awaiting and we have plenty more ideas! “
Want to know more about Cuisine lab, upcoming activities and how you can contribute? Follow their project via FB (Cuisine lab)!
Subscribe here to join the Cuisine Lab Team on September 21st – for a talk about their work during the Peace Talks 2017 held at the United Nations in Geneva.