I want to connect people of different backgrounds through Afghan cuisine

Khatere fled her home in Afghanistan twice, arriving in Switzerland with her family in 2016. Now she wants to share her culinary heritage and she has started offering online cooking courses as well as a catering service. The next step is a food truck.

‘Khatere’, when translated from Dari, means ‘lovely memories’. Unlike my name, my memories are not easy to reflect on or share as I have fled my home country of Afghanistan twice. However, I want to use my voice to make people understand the pain of having to leave your home and how hard it is to rebuild your life. 

I have been living in Zurich for more than five years now. The journey to Switzerland was very challenging for me and my family. When the Taliban first took power in 1992, I was six years old and my family fled Afghanistan for Iran. It was in Iran that I spent most of my childhood, during which time my mother began to teach me to cook and my passion for Afghan cuisine was born. I was so proud when I was finally able to cook my family dinner for the first time.

My husband and I returned to Afghanistan when the situation seemed to be more stable after the events of 9/11. However, the Taliban soon returned and we came to the difficult decision to leave again. It was only when we were stranded in a refugee camp in Greece that we finally felt safe. The conditions in the camp were so bad that we decided that my daughter and I would try to enter Switzerland with a fake passport after trying and failing to continue our journey by foot. More than a year later, we were finally reunited with my husband and son in Zurich, and we have been here together since 2017. 

It has always been important to us to provide for ourselves and we are working hard to rebuild our lives. But it’s difficult to get a job if you aren’t completely fluent in the language or if your qualifications aren’t recognized. I had the idea to start my own food service, thanks to the support of a young Swiss student called Kira. I was inspired to share the culinary treasures that my mother had taught me as a way to connect people from different cultural backgrounds. 

We founded Afghan Laziz in 2021. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Capacity Zurich, a talent and startup incubator for people with a refugee or migrant background. In 2020, I took part in their entrepreneurship programme and strengthened my business skills. With their help, I was able to transform my idea into a real business.   

Much has happened since then. We started offering online cooking courses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and have set up a catering service. Now we are planning our next step: a food truck to bring Afghan cuisine to the streets of Switzerland. This will hopefully provide a livelihood for me and my family and allows me to share my greatest passion with Swiss people: the cuisine of my home country.