New Brunswick

Syrian chefs quickly land jobs at Saint John restaurant

Ehab Radwan opened the restaurant Taste of Egypt in Saint John more than four years ago and says finding another chef to help him in the kitchen was impossible until Syrian refugees began arriving.

Two Syrian chefs have already been hired at Saint John's Taste of Egypt restaurant

Ehab and Paula Radwan who own Taste of Egypt in Saint John recently hired two Syrian chefs who arrived as refugees. (Submitted by Ehab Radwan)

Ehab Radwan opened the Taste of Egypt restaurant in Saint John more than four years ago and Radwan says it has been impossible to find another chef to help him in the kitchen.

"I am working all the time from opening to closing," he said.

But since December, Radwan has hired two Syrian chefs who have arrived in Saint John as refugees.

"I have been trying for three years to get in a chef from Egypt and I had a difficult time with that and I kept contacting the YMCA — I told them if you have any immigrant people or refugees that worked before in a kitchen just let me know."

Radwan says one of the new chefs has already been with him for more than a month and the other will start this week.

"I'm hoping ... after they are well-trained and they pick a little bit of English they can replace me so I can start to enjoy my life a little bit."

Radwan has already taught his first new hire the entire menu and now is concentrating on teaching him the language so he can communicate with servers.

"I'm just trying to train him what's the name of all of this stuff in English," he laughed.

Mediterranean chefs needed

​"Nobody can imagine what they suffer during the war there. And I hear stories from them, like it's unbelievable," Radwan said.

He has heard the suggestion that Syrian refugees will "take jobs from Canadians" but he rejects that notion.

"Not correct," he said. " Since day one I am hiring a lot of Canadians, a lot of chefs, and they speak English and studied culinary arts and I have a hard time to find the one who can fit my cuisine."

Radwan says Canadian chefs are comfortable cooking steaks and fries but are lost when it comes to Mediterranean cuisine.

"We do everything from scratch and that's a lot of work plus you have to know what you're doing. They don't have any idea how to cook kebabs, what it looks like so they feel bad, they feel sad, so they couldn't stay with me that long."

Radwan says as soon as the refugees arriving have a grasp of English he expects they will start businesses of their own and be successful in New Brunswick.

Immigration Minister John McCallum has said Premier Brian Gallant is asking for more refugees, saying New Brunswick has jobs for them in areas such as fish processing.