Hassib was a police officer in Afghanistan. Now he is a chef in Alcantara, the cafeteria at the Pianofabriek Community Centre.
When Hassib (28) arrived in Belgium in 2015, he did not expect to be a professional chef a few years later. Hassib: “I never thought I would be doing anything with cooking. In Afghanistan I worked as a policeman, a completely different profession. I sometimes gave my mother a hand in the kitchen, but that was it.”
From police officer to chef
How does a police officer end up in the hospitality business?
Hassib: “Upon my arrival, I asked several people what I should do. That is how I ended up at bon. I followed the integration program in Pashto, which really helped me. I learned Dutch and got to know more about Belgium, about housing and what training and job opportunities there are.”
bon also put him in touch with other sociocultural organisations, such as Groep INTRO and Jes vzw. Hassib: “They helped me with my job orientation and let me taste of the hospitality business. Finally, I ended up at COOVI, where I completed a training as a kitchen employee, industrial kitchen employee and assistant cook. In the meantime I was also working as a volunteer in the restaurant of a tennis club. That way I discovered new dishes and I was able to improve my Dutch.”
"What am I doing here?"
Hassib admits it took a while before cooking really turned into passion. Hassib: “To be honest, in the beginning I mainly did it for financial reasons. I wanted to find a job as soon as possible to make ends meet. When I was training as an assistant cook, I first thought: what am I doing here? But as I spent more time in the kitchen, I started to enjoy it more and more. Now, I really love my job.
Stew and lasagna
Hassib finds the European cuisine enchanting. Hassib: “In Afghanistan we mostly have the same ingredients as over here, but we tend to use more cumin and dill, for example. At home, we now eat a mix of European and Afghan dishes. My wife just came over from Afghanistan and she loves lasagna. I taught her how to prepare it. We also like beef stew. It is my favourite Belgian dish.”
My own restaurant
Hassib's big dream? Be a policeman again someday. But that is a long way to go. “You must have good language skills and get admitted to the training program. In the short term, I would like to run my own restaurant. Drawing up a business plan and improving my Dutch: that is what I have planned for now. I'm looking forward to it!"