Refugee-cooked meals help battle prejudices in French restaurants.
Credit: Courtesy of Les Cuistots Migrateurs

Earlier this week, a study showed the power of eating together: People who chow down on similar dishes are more likely to trust and cooperate with each other. But is this bond strong enough to cross longstanding national and racial divides? A couple of French entrepreneurs may just find out.

Louis Jacquot and Sebastien Prunier, both just 29 years old, have recently started a venture called Les Cuistots Migrateurs – or The Migratory Cook – with a simple but intriguing idea: Help fight the growing prejudices against refugees in France by enlisting refugee chefs to cook and serve meals from their native countries. According to the New York Times, the duo has already put on 20 events since February with the help of chefs from six different countries: Syria, Chechnya, Iran, India, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. New chefs from Afghanistan and Tibet are already in the pipeline.

“Immigrants here are seen in a negative light, as pulling the country down, as having nothing to offer, but in fact they offer a chance to exchange cultures, to bring something positive: The cuisine of a place gives pleasure,” Prunier told the NYT. “This is part of immigration, too.”

Though the program runs like a catering company, moving from place to place, Prunier said that the refugee chefs are always on hand to talk with the people they are serving. “It’s important to show that this comes from a person and it was a long road for him to bring it here: that the cuisine comes from a place and a tradition,” he was quoted as saying.

The hope is that The Migratory Cook can work threefold: exposing people in France to new cuisines, creating jobs and, just maybe, changing the perception people have of immigrants. At the very least, it’s hard to be angry about anything after a good meal.