The city's second-annual Refugee Restaurant Week kicks off today.
You probably wouldn't stop into a restaurant called Grit American Cuisine for Nepalese dumplings, or momos; chances are you wouldn't immediately be expecting to find Iraqi cuisine on a menu at your local farm-to-table restaurant, or regional Burmese cooking being served up at one of the hippest restaurants in town. If, however, you are in Boise, Idaho this week, you will be able to find all of those things.
Today marks the start of Boise's Refugee Restaurant Week—this is the second go-round for the event, which pairs local refugee chefs with some of the region's top culinary talent, for a side-by-side takeover of sorts. Besides bringing things like Chef Dah Bu Soe's cloud ear mushroom salad with prawns on to the menu at The Modern Hotel & Bar—usually the domain of James Beard-nominated Chef Nate Whitley—or white bean curry with lamb, an Iraqi specialty, as a dinner main at The Hyde House, a top-notch neighborhood spot known for its attention to local sourcing, the event is designed not only to promote the talents of some of the region's less celebrated chefs, but also as a sort of informal teaching tool.
At each participating restaurant—there are four, this year—materials will be handed out explaining the food, the partnership, and the background of the chefs. Restaurants are sourcing, where possible, from Boise's Global Gardens, an urban farm that's run by refugees.
The event, organized by the Idaho Office For Refugees, was inspired by Paris' Refugee Food Festival, first held in 2016 and operating with the same premise—bring local refugees into restaurant kitchens and allow food to build bridges across various cultural divides.
It's a timely idea not only in Paris, but in Boise, as well—Idaho has over the years has been known for offering a rather outsized welcome to refugees. Statistics show that over the last forty years, roughly 20,000 people from approximately fifty countries have come to the state through resettlement programs; last year a local news outlet reported that Boise now had more Syrian refugees than New York and Los Angeles combined. These days, the more bridges, the better.
To learn more about the Refugee Restaurant Week in Boise, visit www.idahorefugees.org.