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Rescuing futures

The refugee chef bringing the Ivory Coast to Athens

Photo: Elena Heatherwick/IRC

It was Moussa’s friends’ requests for his cooking that first sparked his idea for a business.

“Everyone was telling me that the food of my country was very good. They asked me: ‘When will you cook again? Where can I find this food?’ So I decided to take this opportunity and start a business.”

His dream is to open the first Ivorian restaurant in Athens, inspired by his childhood in the Ivory Coast.

“When I was a kid in Africa, my family would cook for the local community for free every night,” he says. “We would see everyone arriving and just being happy together, then the food would come out and we’d all eat together. When I came to Greece, I missed that. For me, setting up my restaurant will remind me of my family when everyone, from all different religions, races, nationalities, came together to eat.”

Moussa's set up a new life for himself in Athens after leaving the Ivory Coast.

Photo: Elena Heatherwick/IRC

Moussa lost his parents and his younger brother before leaving the Ivory Coast and has lived in Greece for five years. He plans to call the restaurant ‘Our Home’ as he wants people to feel at home when they come through the doors.

Moussa’s a strong believer in the power of food to bring people together, open minds and transcend borders, he says: “Food can connect people. People will always go where they can be happy. Good food makes people happy and so it brings people together. I like to push people to try something new and experience new flavours, when people try new food it opens their minds.”

He hopes his restaurant will help to tell a positive story about the Ivory Coast. “It's important for me to cook Ivorian food because I want to show people what we eat,” he says. “I want to bring people into Our Home so they have a more open mind about our culture. I hope by doing so people will be happy and learn new things. They will learn there are good things in Ivory Coast. There is good food and good people. That's what I want them to understand. We want to integrate with them, be friends, be happy together.”

"Food can connect people." Moussa believes that eating together can help to open minds.

Moussa first started cooking for his Greek girlfriend after he got tired of eating Greek food – she’s been encouraging him ever since!

He’s enrolled in the IRC ‘Back My Business’ programme supported by the Citi Foundation where he’s been given mentoring and funding to kick-start his restaurant business.

“The course has taught me what a business is, now I know I can make a business from cooking the food of my country. Every day of my life I use what I’ve learnt on this course – every day!”

Moussa's friends particularly like his plantain - they've inspired him to keep cooking!

Photo: Elena Heatherwick/IRC

Moussa believes that all good businesses start with passion: “I tell my friends all the time: keep doing what you enjoy and you can make money from it and learn to do it even better. For me, business starts with doing something you like.”

“Everyone has ideas - refugees, citizens - we all have dreams, but we don’t know how to realise them. It’s important to have help to make your dream come true.”

Find out more

Our Back My Business programme in partnership with the Citi Foundation offers young entrepreneurs living in Greece, Nigeria and Jordan the chance to kickstart their business and reach their full potential. The programme is implemented in Greece by Solidarity Now, in collaboration with Knowl Social Enterprise.