Serving up opportunity

Hamed Allayhari. (Supplied)

Tara Murray

Sunshine cafe and restaurant owner Hamed Allayhari knows what many asylum seekers and refugees are going through; no job, being to speak little English, and struggling to find their way in the community.

Mr Allayhari was in the same situation when he arrived in Australia.

“In my country Iran, I was a chef,” he said.

“We had one week to leave the country and we didn’t even say goodbye to my family. It was easiest to come by boat, as we couldn’t get a visa.

“Coming to Australia wasn’t an easy decision. I lived in a detention centre when I came out here.”

Mr Allayhari finally settled in Melbourne. It would be two years before he was allowed to work or study, and even when he was allowed to work he couldn’t find a job.

He said receiving knockback after knockback was really tough.

“They would say leave your CV and we will get in contact with you,” he said.

“I didn’t give up, but a lot of people would as it’s the easy thing to do, not working and get government support instead.

“They don’t feel part of the community and a couple of years later they become depressed.”

Mr Allayhari started to volunteer at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Footscray, cooking meals twice a week.

His food, Persian, was a hit and he would form the dream of owning his own place in Melbourne.

He would find a job at Free to Feed, a pop-up cooking school where all classes are run by asylum seekers and refugees.

It would then lead to him starting Cafe Sunshine & SalamaTea.

SalamaTea is a not-for-profit social enterprise café that runs regular barista training courses to help incoming residents improve their language skills and find employment in Australia.

Mr Allayhari has run 20-plus cooking classes, sharing his story to more than 2500 people, and runs barista courses twice a year while providing external English classes for his employees.

The cafe and restaurant has become a home to many other refugees and asylum seekers as they seek to set up a life for themselves.

“This is my way of giving back to the community and supporting refugees and asylum seekers,” he said.

“It’s giving jobs to people who don’t have a reference or skills and are new to the country.

“We send them to english classes and get them to work in the restaurant and cafe.”

Mr Allayhari said the employees will work for him for six to 12 months before moving on to new roles.

He said many don’t know the difference between coffee types or where all the cutlery sits when they start.

He said at times its challenging, but the customers and the partners, including Campos Coffee, support them.

“We give customers the best coffee in the west. We haven’t had any complaints so far.”

Mr Allayhari said he dreams of opening more cafes and restaurants so he can help more people.