Mazí Mas pop-up dinners are meals with a difference. The organisation is a not-for-profit social enterprise that trains and employs refugee and asylum-seeker women, and the chefs cooking at the pop-ups are women who have the right to work in Australia on bridging visas. The dinners recognise and pay them for the skills they have cultivated in the home. It started in London in 2012. The Sydney arm of Mazí Mas began in 2014.
“They complete food-safety and responsible-service-of-alcohol certificates,” says Mazí Mas director Maggie Lloyd. She trained with the team in London before beginning the social enterprise in Sydney. “Through Diageo they also do bar-training courses. The dinners celebrate the skills they have as home cooks, and offer them formal NSW qualifications for their CVs.”
The spring series of Mazí Mas pop-up dinners will be held at Lush Bucket Cafe in Ultimo. It offers a three-course Sri Lankan set-menu for $50 per head. Expect green-apple curry, brinjal and traditional chicken curry thanks to the Sri Lankan and Pakistani backgrounds of the chefs. The heritage of the women involved is always a key part of the process, and dinners so far have showcased food from Nigeria and Fiji.
“One of the women will take the role of head chef and they will curate the dinner,” says Michelle Freer, another Mazí Mas director. “It gives the women the chance to experience different roles and to change the dynamic of each dinner.”
“The dinners are paid work, paid at above award wages, and it can be a financial lifeline at a time when there’s not much other support for these women. And it gives them local experience,” says Freer. She says that up to five women operate the kitchen with four managing the floor. So far more than 50 per cent of women who have taken part in the dinners are now employed in the hospitality industry.
The next Mazí Mas dinners will be hosted at Lush Bucket Cafe in Ultimo on September 24, 25 and 26 with a Sri Lankan theme.