With a unique humanitarian concept, Flavors From Afar opened its door to diners in March 2020. Located in the Fairfax district of Hollywood, L.A., this sunlit neighborhood restaurant serves culture on a plate, sharing the flavors of home-cooked meals prepared by refugees and asylum seekers. Let’s find out more about this intriguing venture.
Flavors From Afar was the brainchild of Meymuna Hussein-Cattan, who opened the restaurant with cofounder Christian Davis. Each month, they tap a new chef to prepare the menu for the month. The USP is that all these chefs are either asylum seekers or refugees, who prepare home-style meals in the kitchen and share their own culture through the dishes. That’s how the joint ensures and promotes a wide diversity of cuisine hard to find in other branded comfort food joints. Most chefs for the restaurant are discovered through the Tiyya Foundation, a non-profit organization that Hussein-Cattan started in 2010 with her mother, Owliya Dima. The institution supports families of immigrants, refugees, and displaced Indigenous communities.
Founder Hussein-Cattan explains that the restaurant is a platform to create a peer-to-peer dialogue. As an Ethiopian refugee who moved to the US in 1984, she is well aware of the potential food has an entry point for cultural exchange. According to her, all the chefs of the restaurant share a common passion for food, which helps them put their talents over their traumas, personally and collectively. Also, it’s a great way to bring back the good memories of family and childhood, to strengthen and share their own cultural roots and heritage. Fostering this concept Hussein-Cattan opened her restaurant at a time when multinational chains were forced to shut down due to the global pandemic. Ever since, her restaurant kitchen has been busy with talented refugees whipping up dishes like tender lamb shank and rice pilaf in Egyptian gravy, Lebanese ouze, Chechen manti dumplings, and Kenyan coconut tilapia.