Acoge un Plato (Embrace a dish)
Organisation : CEAR- Spanish Commission for Refugees , Spain

ACOGE UN PLATO aims to foster inclusion of refugees within the host society throughout gastronomy, enhancing their skills, qualification and employability.

The project develops an initiative where migration and asylum are stressed in a positive way throughout a daily life element as the gastronomy is.

The project uses mainly CEAR´s financial, human and material resources, with the collaboration of the Madrid food markets to set up the building facilities required and any other material elements needed to undertake the workshops.

In addition, as the project is documented and tracked, it is replicable anywhere else at a broader scale, in every state willing to better the integration of refugees in local societies.

Agendas addressed
Social inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Apply innovative financing approaches

We are facing an increase of migrants´ refusal and xenophobic attitudes within host societies. ACOGE UN PATO develops an initiative where migration and asylum are stressed in a positive way throughout a daily life element as the gastronomy is. In the workshops, stereotypes and prejudices are broken, something that comes to be especially necessary today.Thus, the project comes to be a sound response to the mentioned above challenge to be attended.

From its very beginning, the project addresses the social inclusion of refugees in the Spanish society, fostering the social interaction from within the “beating heart” of a neighborhood: its food markets. These markets are authentic vibrant meeting points for the local population, busy hubs of social and commercial exchange in the middle of each district.

Developing new business lines as a ACOGE UN PLATO CATERING, the project has also achieved to create new job opportunities for refugee people.

Project website:

In Action

It is to be emphasized that “ACOGE UN PLATO” is developed in agreement with Madrid City Council’s Department of Small Businesses, which has allowed us to carry out the workshops inside various of these markets. Because the workshops take place in a public space, that is, ideal setting locations for promoting cultural richness as represented by the gastronomy of different countries, the message reaches not only the paying participants but also all the other people who make up the rich tapestry of market life.

The workshops are always driven by a refugee and a professional chef. The refugees play an active part in the project from the outset by sharing their culinary knowledge and talent through workshops aimed at groups of people who pay a fee to attend in person. The busy market environment also enables refugees and members of the public to talk to each other and interact, which generates empathy for the refugee giving the workshop. Then, as a good practice it contributes to broaden the refugees´ support base, as well as to creating wide networks within the local society.

Participants feel useful with themselves and with the host society, upgrading their self-esteem thanks to imparting the workshop from their leadership; sharing their life-histories and talking with people in a natural and warm way, in the frame of a daily basis activity.

To date, several refugees participating in the project have already tasted its positive effects in terms of inclusion, and increasing opportunities to access to the job market in equal conditions. This has included: some of them having been hired or sponsored in reputable cookery schools, or even getting started with their own entrepreneur’s gastronomic brand.

Linked with the last idea, it is also to be highlighted that the project has had, from its beginning, a participatory approach, focused in the final users. That means, it is about a “life-alike recipe book”, where anyone can join as their best convenience. All in all, these are examples of participants gaining autonomous visibility, without the need of being constantly backed by any organization.


- Madrid City Council’s Department of Small Businesses
- Market networking places in Madrid - chefs’ community

Actors involved:
- Refugees
- CEAR’s private-sector collaborators
- Volunteering community
- Spanish civil society


Results in 2019:
Number of hired refugees: 50
Number of cooking workshops: 7
Total number of registered participants: 44
Total number of service catering in events: 28, reaching 2.200 people.
Sandra Mena, an assistanf of the workshop shared with us her opinion about the workshop: “I have enjoyed the workshop a lot. Preparing the recipes and sharing stories and moments with Lionel (the refugee chef) in so friendly and close atmosphere was really funny".


Based on three fundamental elements: gastronomy, empathy and sustainability:
• The project ACOGE UN PLATO raises Spanish society’s awareness of refugee rights and the situation they are facing, countering prejudices and xenophobic dynamics.
• The project improves the employability of refugees and cultural integration through gastronomy.
• The project secures funding for vocational training in gastronomy and thus increases the chances of finding a job for refugees, helping to start a new life in Spain.
• ACOGE UN PLATO has developed some different line business aiming to create more job opportunities for refugee people. For example, it has been also created: ACOGE UN PLATO CATERING, a service that offers a supportive catering with food and recipes from all the world.

Challenges and lessons learned

The main challenges initially identified were:

- We were not chef masters so as to impart the cooking training.
- Not every participant was prepared with good communication skills to impart the workshops.
- New places needed to develop further related activities and expand the project in new districts and cities.
- New chefs and participants needed to lead new cooking workshops.

How did we solve it?

Some participants took, beforehand some guiding trainings with communication experts to gain communication abilities. The coordination of the implementation, it rests on the “design thinking” approach, so we keep on receiving participants and users feedback and revolving the strategy. We developed Acoge un Plato Catering to reach new publics.



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