Chefs & Cuisines
Zainab was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. She learned to cook with her mother at fifteen years old, always fascinated by learning the craft. By the following year, Zainab had taken over the family kitchen. While her mother worked at a neighboring wheat and flour factory, Zainab was in charge of cooking for her mother and seven other siblings. Not only did she cook for her family, but she was also in charge of cooking for any guest that visited her home. By that time, she had completed her ninth grade education, which was the highest level allowed for girls by the Taliban.
Soon after, Zainab worked at a restaurant in the ministry. This was her first time cooking professionally. While there, Zainab worked and supported a popular chef who cooked for the Afghan president, press, and staff. When she got engaged, she returned home to take care of her family. She would then move on to cook for an Iranian construction company that her husband also worked for. Her food was so good, the boss offered to get her a visa so she could come to Iran and cook for him. She ultimately said no, as she didn’t want to leave her family, and went on to cook at a hotel restaurant. She worked both as a support chef and a chef for about a year. It was here that she honed her craft. While most people specialized in a single dish, Zainab dabbled in everything. She loved working there because she was able to cook some of her favorite foods. She would cook amazing dishes like mantu, qabuli, and ashak.
In October of 2019, Zainab and her husband brought their family to America on a Special Immigrant Visa. They came looking for new opportunities for themselves and their family. While Zainab loves cooking, she truly loves how food can make people feel. Zainab wants people to taste and enjoy new and different foods. She loves how cooking can bring people together and how sharing meals together can create lasting memories. When people eat her food, their joy brings her joy.
Order Zainab's Cuisine here.
Yebralem was born in the fishing town of Assab, Eritrea. She grew up speaking Tigrinya and Amharic in the coastal town at mouth of the Red Sea. She learned most of her culinary skills from her mother, a local restauranteur in Assab. Yebralem’s best memories are cooking in her family restaurant. Yebralem left her home country due to the political instability and the desire to provide a better life for her husband and teenage son. Their journey brought them to South Africa, where she learned local recipes and refined her catering skills, cooking for large weddings and parties. In South Africa she applied for refugee status and her family was granted passage to the United States. Yebralem says that cooking for many people is rewarding as it gives her great joy to cook for others.
Life in the U.S. was challenging and rewarding. Yebralem arrived in the U.S. with the dream of working in a kitchen, but was willing to take any job. Upon arrival in the U.S. she balanced acculturating the U.S., finding work, and getting to know the U.S. system. During her first year in the U.S. Yebralem was able to improve her English and make friends. She enrolled in employment services with the IRC and was able to obtain a job working in food packaging. She never forgot her dream of cooking and was connected to Foodhini two years after her arrival in the U.S.
Yebralem’s food is typical of Eritrea with her own twist. She loves learning new techniques and is not afraid to experiment with new recipes. Her food is a mix of flavors- the flavors from her childhood home, her travels in East and Southern Africa, and her new life in the U.S. It's with great joy that we share her story and food with you!
Order Yebralem's Eritrean/Ethiopian Cuisine here.
Chef Mina was born and raised in the city of Tabriz, a beautiful and ancient city in northwestern of Iran, not far from Azerbaijan. Her native language is Azerbaijani but she is also fluent in Farsi and Turkish. Tabriz is where she started her family, marrying her husband and also having two wonderful children. As her family grew, they wanted more freedom and flexibility so they finally made the decision to flee to Turkey. They settled for three years in the Cappadocia region, and they were lucky enough to be able to immigrate to the States just two years ago. They settled in Maryland and are again starting over, however it is with so much more hope for the future.
Mina learned to cook from her mother and my mother-in- law, giving her a chance to learn the many wonderful dishes that are typical of Iranian cuisine. While in Turkey, she learned how to make many delicious recipes that are special to that country also. She believes that enjoying good food is important for living a happy life with family and friends and that sharing food of her homeland with people who come from different cultures can lead to new friends and maybe help bring peace to the world. We're so excited to share her story and delicious foods with you, we're sure you are as well =)
Mam learned Lao cooking from her mother in law by watching her in the kitchen and preparing meals for the family. As Mam recounted her memories in learning to cook she said, “As a daughter in law, I wanted to learn to cook Lao cuisine because I wanted to cook for my family.” She learned to love cooking as it allowed her to share a part of herself with the people most important to her.
Since then, she has mastered her culinary skills by cooking at home for her family and has also become quite popular in the DC Lao community by catering for family and community gatherings. She didn't start cooking until later in life, but she’s excited at the chance to cook from the heart and share it with everyone. Foodhini is so excited to share her incredible food with you, and we hope you are as well.
Order Mam's Lao Cuisine here.
A mother to three beautiful children and the wife to a loving husband, Ghosoun never imagined she would need to leave her home country of Syria, and relocate her entire family to the United States. Syria’s civil war started six years ago and Ghosoun and her husband, Bashir, stayed as long as they could until they could no longer survive there. The war has destroyed everything and Ghosoun’s health was in danger being a diabetic.
They made the decision to leave their country and move to Jordan three years ago with no money and only the things they could carry. For almost three years, Ghosoun and her family lived in a Jordanian refugee camp, unsure of what would happen in their future. Her three children ranged in age from 12-16, two boys and one girl. Finally, their request to relocate to the United States was approved and they moved to the Hyattsville area just a little over six months ago.
Since arriving in America, their daily challenges compound with trying to learn English, trying to find work, learning a new culture, and trying to hold on to their home country. It’s been over six years since Ghosoun has seen her mother, while at the same time their family is scattered throughout the Middle East and America, with some family being lost in the war.
Given all of these challenges, Ghosoun possesses a skill that stretches across all boundaries, cultures, and languages. She’s incredibly talented at crafting her cultural foods! Her dishes come from the heart, and she’s mastered her craft over many years by preparing meals for her community and family. She looks to brighter days and making a new life for herself and her family.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Chef Wing has been in the United States for only four years. Wing started his culinary journey as a young boy when he and his mother would cook meals out of their home kitchen to sell to the other families in their village. From breakfast to dinner, Wing would whip up homemade Palawan food that the entire community would line up for.
As a teenager, Wing was working 15 hour days as a sous-chef at the local restaurant to help support his family and six other siblings. Eventually, Wing moved to the city and started his own boat tour company where he would cook local favorites for his guests, one of which would go on to be his wife.
He and his wife moved to the States not long ago, and upon arrival Wing faced barriers that many new immigrants have to manage against: education and employment. Wanting to follow in his mother’s footsteps in opening a restaurant, he began working in the DC restaurant field. He had humble beginnings as a dishwasher at the Natural History Museum and worked his way up to line cooking for a number of restaurants throughout DC.
Chef Wing continues to work towards achieving his dream of opening his own Filipino toro toro style restaurant someday, bringing you the flavors and tastes of his home Palawan food.
Born to a nomad family in eastern Tibet, chef Dorjee and his family would pack up their belongings and black wool tents every season to move to new pastures for their sheep and yaks. Dorjee grew up watching his mother and sisters cook over a cob stove. He became a Buddhist monk at age 6 and worked in monasteries for 16 years, where he learned how to prepare large amounts of food very quickly.
In 2006, Dorjee walked across the Himalayas for 1 month and 18 days, becoming a refugee in India. He left the monastery in pursuit of a secular education, but eventually began working at an international cafe and bakery learning how to make Western food and refining his Tibetan and Chinese cooking skills. He studied English and served as a community liaison and guide for student groups.
Dorjee immigrated to the US in 2014. In DC, he has garnered experience working in various kitchen and restaurant environments preparing food for thousands of customers per day. Most recently, he received his US Citizenship!!