Bistro dedicated to helping refugees offers Plateful of hope

A bistro set up in Lewisham to help provide a ladder of opportunity into the hospitality industry for refugees has just celebrated its first anniversary – and the founder could not be more delighted.

Iolande Chirico’s Plateful Café in Lewisham Road has been created to help refugees show off their skills as chefs and it showcases cuisine from around the world that local people can enjoy.

The charitable enterprise was set up in April 2023 and operates out of Parkside Community Centre, Copperwood Place, three days a week, offering breakfast, lunch and private catering. It also sells artisan products such as jams, condiments, arts and crafts. The cooks are paid the London Living wage of £13.15 per hour
Ms Chirico, who is in her 60s and Italian, told the South London Press: “Our main income is from grants and donations and also we have the traded income from the café, selling products, catering etc. In our first financial year, we made just under 50k
“I am assisted by a team of eight paid part-time cooks from Syria and Iran, a kitchen manager and a team of 52 volunteers who help with finance, admin, social media and fundraising.
“We have made a big difference to the cooks lives who have all benefitted greatly in many areas including better physical and mental health, improved English language skills, better integration in the new community, increased self-confidence and new skills in working in the kitchen and front of the house and serving the public.
Pictured top: The Plateful Café welcomes guests (Picture: TPC)
“I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together in an incredible team of hardworking and committed volunteers.”

The diner recently celebrated a Persian festival Nowruz which stretches back over three millennia. It is a celebration of the spring equinox and appropriately symbolises the emergence of new life and the triumph of light over darkness.

Hadis, a physiotherapist in Iran before she left two years ago, was behind the Persian gourmet session and is one of the many talented chefs who cook at Plateful Café.

She said: “Plateful has allowed me to make a better lifestyle for myself in the UK and it’s been great to show off my culture and my style of cooking to customers.

“It’s been great because I’ve been able to get experience working in a professional kitchen and serving customers, and I’ve also learnt how to make coffee like a barista.”

The café’s new bistro nights showcase the food, culture and music of members of staff like Hadis, but it is mainly open for lunches on Thursdays (9.30am-3pm), Fridays (9.30am-3pm), and Saturdays (12pm-5pm).

For a full evening of culture, head along to the next Plateful Lates bistro night which will next be held on the evening of April 18.

Pictured top: Iolanda Chirico (left) and Hadis (right) one of the cooks (Picture: Plateful Cafe)


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