This Canadian Kitchen Is Opening Its Doors To Syrian Refugees —

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The Depanneur, a culinary lab in Toronto, invites Syrian refugees to cook their native cuisine and share a taste of home with others.

By Jake Godin, Connor Hickox | May 27, 2016

“And they were, like, looking at each other, going, ‘We’re supposed to do the cooking?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Just come cook,'” said Len Senater, owner of The Depanneur, an eclectic food kitchen in Toronto.

“All of the sudden, the timber of the whole thing changed and they were talking and laughing and cooking and chopping and, it became … just the whole place was just full of life, and I think that’s really when we said okay, this is an amazing thing that we really should do.

“I’m Len Senater. I run The Depanneur here in Toronto. The Depanneur is a place where interesting food things happen. It’s a venue I established about five years ago to showcase the amazing diversity of culinary talent we have in the city.

“You know, as the news stories started coming out that there were families that were in the hotels for extended periods of time that didn’t have access to kitchens, couldn’t cook for their family or themselves, and I mean, I have this big kitchen; it’s not being used necessarily during the day. … Could I just invite them to use the kitchen so that they could use it to make food for themselves and their family?

“It seemed like a pretty simple idea and kind of a natural extension of the way we open our kitchen to people anyways. If you combine newcomers with kitchens, all of these incredible opportunities start to emerge. So, they have an incredible skill set, and how do we recognize the skills they already have, and how can we create a path where they can take the skills they have and turn them into ways they can support their families? We win, too, because it makes the city a more delicious place to be, and we’re getting these amazing foods that a lot of people have never tried before.

“There’s also this idea that although this issue was born in a specific crisis of this particular group not having kitchens for a short period of time, what became clear is that the essential idea is much bigger than that. This can be done with any newcomer community, or any marginalized community, in any kitchen willing to open its doors, in any city in the world.

“So part of this project is also trying to figure out how to unpack that idea and realize the full potential. Can we open-source this idea and get it out into the world where its impact can amplify and magnify wherever it lands?”

This video includes a video from CTV News. Music provided courtesy of APM Music.

«Newcomer Kitchen» : le partage des traditions culinaires syriennes à Toronto — CBC Radio-Canada

«Newcomer Kitchen» : le partage des traditions culinaires syriennes à Toronto

Le vendredi 27 mai 2016

Quelques participantes à l'initiative Newcomer Kitchen. Photo : Jonathan Bouchard

Quelques participantes à l’initiative Newcomer Kitchen. Photo : Jonathan Bouchard

Une initiative torontoise veut faciliter l’intégration des réfugiés syriens dans leur communauté d’accueil et ce par le biais de la nourriture. Il s’agit du projet Newcomer Kitchen. Ainsi, une fois par semaine, des réfugiés syriens se rassemblent dans la cuisine du Dépanneur, un espace culinaire de l’Ouest de Toronto où tous et toutes s’affairent à préparer des mets typiques de leur pays.

Initialement, le projet permettait aux réfugiés qui étaient encore logés à l’hôtel de se nourrir sainement. La mission s’est transformée au fil des mois. Maintenant, les participant vendent également des repas à la communauté.

Selon l’un des instigateurs du projet, le propriétaire du Dépanneur, Leonard Senater, ce projet permet d’assurer la survie de traditions culinaires de la Syrie. Ces rencontres hebdomadaires permettent également aux réfugiés de tisser des liens avec la communauté.

VIDEO: Newcomer Kitchen, une cuisine communautaire pour les réfugiés

AUDIO FIL: «Newcomer Kitchen» : le partage des traditions culinaires syriennes à Toronto

Toronto restaurant becomes Syrian home-cooking hub | Toronto Star


By KARON LIU  |  Food Writer
Thu., May 12, 2016

The Depanneur opens its doors to Syrian refugees itching to cook.

Inside a tiny corner west-end restaurant on a sunny Thursday afternoon, the sounds of someone playing the bongos and women singing Syrian folk songs fill the room as the dozen or so Syrian women sing and chat away at the stoves. On the burner are stockpots of cinnamon-scented beef simmering in creamy spiced yogurt. Pans of golden-brown semolina cakes are cooling on the counter, glistening with the syrup they were brushed with. These women aren’t just cooking; they’re preserving the cuisine of a country where millions of its people are being displaced.

Read the rest of the article


Newcomer Kitchen on CBC

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Big thanks to Mary Wien, Matt Galloway and Errol Morris for sharing the Newcomer Kitchen story with their Metro Morning listeners & readers.
(just one note: I’m definitely not a professional chef, I just run The Dep)


Amazing Newcomer Kitchen video by Suresh Doss

Recently #Toronto’s @thedepanneur hosted another popup #food event where a group of newly landed #Syrian moms cooked up a delicious dinner menu. There are many Syrian refugee families in Toronto, still in hotels awaiting relocation with no access to kitchens to prepare meals. Depanneur’s @newcomerkitchen project aims to provide kitchen space and the necessary tools for these families, so they can cook food for their themselves and their families. The recent popup was a public one where guests were able to purchase meals online and pick them up at the Dep. It was an incredible experience hanging out these lovely ladies and tasting their food. The plan is to make it a weekly popup, so follow Dep for more info and please go and support our new neighbours. Food brings people together, while the rest of the world contemplates segregation and new borders, in this town we build bridges and forge new relationships. Go #Canada.

A video posted by Suresh Doss (@suresh) on

Syrian refugees find comfort at Toronto’s Depanneur – NOW Toronto Magazine

The west-end food haunt opens its kitchen to newly arrived Syrian refugees holed up in hotel rooms

Thanks to Mary Luz Mejia and NOW Magazine for a lovely summary of The Depanneur’s fledgling Newcomer Kitchen project.

Source: NOW Toronto Magazine

Newcomer Kitchen

The last few weeks at The Dep has seen the realization of a project that an amazing group of volunteers have been working on for many weeks. The idea was simple: there were many Syrian refugee families stuck in hotels awaiting relocation, often for weeks on end, with no access to kitchens. Could we make The Dep available to them so they could cook food for their themselves and their families, in a fun, social setting?

It was more challenging than expected to find a way to connect with the community of families in the hotels, navigating bureaucratic and language barriers, but thanks to the hard work of some amazing people including Rahaf & Esmaeel Al Akabani and Yasmine Nasef from The Welcome Project, Mahmoud Allouch and Roula Ajib from the Arab Community Centre, Monica Abdelkader from COSTI, and the incredible support of Caroline Keenan, Andrea Diaz Varela, Cara Benjamin-Pace, Michelle Krasny (who also took these great photos) and Basil AlZeri, it all came together.

The day was a big success, with nearly a dozen mothers, young and old, coming together to cook and hang out and share a meal. The goal is to try and make this a regular event at The Dep, and once they get comfortable in the space, to invite them to make extra food that can be made available for sale for pick-up or delivery, providing them a revenue stream and entrepreneurial opportunity. There are still lots of logistical issues to figure out, from transportation to scheduling to child care to translation, but if today’s success is any indication, this amazing group will figure it all out.

The outpouring of support for this project has been incredible and overwhelming! Our team is working hard to be able to do this again ASAP, and to keep everyone in the loop.

To start we have set up some basic online resources for those who want to stay up-to-date on this project, or who may want to support it further once we figure out our next steps.

There is now a Facebook Group you can join:

A mailing list where you can add your email:

Or you can follow it on Twitter or Instagram @newcomerkitchen

Direct inquires can be sent to

We will continue posting to the website, you can check in on updates here.