Last year, over a million people fled war-ravaged countries for brighter futures in Europe. Many left places like Syria and Afghanistan, embarking on dangerous journeys over land or by sea for destinations like Hungary and the U.K. Germany has welcomed scores of migrants, and organizations like Refugee Canteen are helping them get established in the local workplace and acquire the skills necessary to stay there.
The brainchild of chef Lukas Halfmann and designer Benjamin Jürgens (pictured above), Rufugee Canteen is an academy of sorts, training asylum-seekers basic culinary arts. The introductory program is followed by a 12-week internship at one of the Canteen’s culinary partners. The idea is to not only set up new arrivals with much-needed job security, but to also address the country’s need for employees in the food and beverage sector.
“We have the opportunity to give something back to the industry,” says Jürgens. “And I’m not only talking about great flavors and good taste, but excellent quality as well. Additionally, our driving force is to invest in future potential, thereby contributing to a successful integration in Germany.”
The Canteen estimates that the hospitality industry in Germany generates some 70 billion Euro a year. Restaurants and similar businesses pop up almost daily, but many quickly dissolve due to mismanagement and a lack of trained staff. According to the Canteen, not even half of the 40,000 available apprenticeships in the German hospitality sector in 2016 were applied for. “This organization offers the necessary training, encourages independence, reduces the shortage of skilled personnel and helps both sides—the people and gastronomy,” says Sybille Kastler, head of marketing at L’Osteria in Munich.
L’Osteria, along with many other German bars and restaurants, chose Refugee Canteen as the charity to support during this year’s Negroni Week. Finding staff is one thing, but securing a group of dependable workers that understand the culture of the foodservice industry is vital to those managing bars and restaurants. “Since we’re expanding steadily and looking for more staff, this is the perfect project to support,” Kastler adds.
Refugee Canteen is headquartered in Hamburg but plans to expand over the next couple of years. Rural areas in Germany in particular are in need of the kind of qualified candidates the organization turns out, as are cities elsewhere in Europe. The long-term goal is to pave the way for those who participate in the program to start their own businesses, ultimately hiring the next generation of academy-trained individuals.