Cover Aeda, a chef partnering with PichaEats, left Syria to build a better life for her children in Malaysia (Photo: Khairul Imran / Tatler Malaysia)

Tatler Dining speaks to three migrant workers who crossed choppy seas to seek out fresh opportunities

Who: Munna
From: Chattogram, Bangladesh
Regional Dishes: Mezban Beef Bona (slow-cooked beef stew) & dried fish from the Bay of Bengal
Restaurant: Table & Apron
Position: Bar captain

"I chose to come to Kuala Lumpur in 2016, as I knew it as a developed city with many opportunities. Truth be told, I had limited choices as a student. I had initially wanted to work with electronics or multimedia devices, but F&B was the easiest industry to get a foot in the door. Since my father passed away, I’ve become the breadwinner of my family.
In Bangladesh, food is mostly seen as a means for survival. But when I started working at Table & Apron, I slowly began to see it as more than sustenance—food can also be a source of enjoyment, entertainment and knowledge. Table & Apron’s guests, many of whom know me personally, sometimes feed our team in return. So food can also be an expression of gratitude and generosity.
I have a lot of happy memories here. Most of these are shared moments with my team at Table & Apron. We work hard and play hard. Our annual team trip to Port Dickson last year was especially memorable, as we cooked, ate and got to know one another better. Coming from the Port City of Bangladesh, my favourite childhood spot was always the beach by my house. I’d get there just in time to catch the sunrise and to listen to the lapping of waves."

See also: 6 Beach Destinations Across Malaysia To Explore Our Sun, Sand And Sea

Who: Aeda
From: Palestine & Syria
National Dishes: Makloobeh (an upside-down dish of meat, rice and vegetables) & Musakhan (Sumac chicken with caramelised onions and flatbread)
Business: PichaEats
Position: Chef

"There is not a stone in Yarmouk Camp that has not wept over the elders, widows, and youngsters whom we’ve lost to random bombings. There is not a household in Yarmouk Camp that has not grieved a son, daughter, father, mother, or an arrest. We still cry and we still weep.

In 2013, it was decided that my children would escape to Malaysia. But I couldn’t live without them, and followed suit in 2014. How would we adapt to a country we had never even seen before?, I wondered. Over the passage of time, I have blended in with its people and felt their kindness.

Being a housewife with ample experience in the kitchen has enabled me to meet the best hearts from PichaEats. When they offered me the opportunity to monetise my cooking, I felt inexplicable joy. I cook with passion to support my children, to pay rent and expenses, and to show my love for the company. I put my heart into my job to convey my struggles and my appreciation to anyone who tastes my food. I am proud of my ability to cook, which is noble work.

I have very little hopes of visiting Syria. Yarmouk Camp is where I was born and married, and where my kids grew up, but what do I get to visit now? It has been reduced to rubble and its inhabitants are scattered all over the world.

My only wish is to be reunited with my other children and husband, and to settle down somewhere safe. May God grant this wish soon."

See also: PichaEats X The Joy Box Support E-Illuminate's Mission To Empower Refugee Children

Who: Andrea
From: Luzon, Philippines
National Dish: Adobo pork
Business: Leonardo’s Dining Room & Wine Loft
Position: Assistant manager

"I was just two weeks away from flying home to the Philippines, but the flight was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Where is home? Nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. I grew up in the municipality of Santa Maria, in the province of Ilocos Sur at the western coastline of Luzon Island.

When I was younger, I was fascinated by the love, care and sacrifice shown by my school teachers. As a result, I often imagined myself in their shoes. Being assistant manager of a restaurant never crossed my mind, but it was in the stars when I migrated to Malaysia in 2010.
Adapting to a new country and culture was particularly difficult, and realigned some of my beliefs. Honestly, before I joined the restaurant industry, food was just a way to fill my empty tummy. Now, it is just as much about nourishment as it is about the people who prepare and serve your meal. The company you keep during mealtimes also matters. I miss eating with my family terribly."

See also: Joloko Directs 100% Of Proceeds From Margaritas To Tenaganita Every Wednesday


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