Knowledge and passion from around the world.

We’re proud to have chefs from over 20 different countries in the Migrateful family, each bringing unique skills, knowledge and recipes.
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Meet the Migrateful chefs

Scroll down to find out a bit more about our chefs, including their food, culture and the stories that brought them to the UK. We work with refugees, migrants, and asylum seeker from all around the world, and they are all waiting to teach you their delicious international cuisines in fun, easy and engaging cookery classes.

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CHEFS

London chefs

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My name is Deshira, and I come from Albania which is located in the South-East of Europe. Albanian cuisine is representative of the Mediterranean diet, based on the importance of olive oil, fruits, vegetables and fish. I started cooking when I was nine years old because my mother got sick and spent three months in hospital. So, I was “on duty” taking care of my little brother and dad. I remember the first dish I made was my favourite Albanian dish called “byrek,” made with lots of pastry filled with mince, cheese, or spinach. I was brought up in a culture where sharing a meal is a very important way of connecting with others and integrating in the society. With all the problems I’m experiencing with the Home Office my passion for cooking is an amazing way to stay positive through it all.

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Hello I’m Aklima Aktar, I’m from Bangladesh. I have a great passion for authentic cooking using fresh exotic blends of spices. I have years of experience in delivering food to suit all taste buds. I can cook from traditional clay pan to ceramic pan. If you are a food lover and want to go that extra mile to experience hands on cooking authentic traditional Bangladeshi food be sure to book a session with me and I promise you will not be disappointed.

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My name is Leonor and I am from Ecuador. I came to London seven years ago. All my friends and family know me for being a wonderful cook. I am a kind and hard working person and I enjoy meeting new people and experiencing new things. I love Ecuadorian food.

Migrateful is a very important way for me to build my confidence. My heart beats very fast every time someone speaks English to me in the street. This is why Migrateful is so important, because it’s a chance for me to get over my fear of speaking English. Leading a cookery class feels like a real challenge because of having to be able to communicate in English – but I am excited about this challenge and excited to teach my Ecuadorian recipes.

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Hi I’m Cristina. I’m from the province of Bulacan which is close to Manila in The Philippines. I love to cook. My favourite thing to make is Inangit, sticky rice with coconut milk. This was my mother’s favourite dish and she passed it down to me. I’m the eldest of 4 and my mother taught how to cook perfect rice when I was 7 so that I could cook for my siblings when she went to work. I’m excited to share Filipino food with people in this country. Teaching a class and sharing my food and my culture with new people fills me with joy and brings back so many happy memories of the home I had to leave behind.

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My name is Parastoo. I am from Iran. I grew up in the capital city Tehran, which is a very noisy and crowded city. When I think about Tehran I think of streets full of pastry shops filled with different types of savoury sweets, which is beautifully designed in a shiny see through containers. The creamy pistachio cakes are the most popular cones that people approach to first. In Iran food is very important, not only what we eat but the quality of what we eat is actually important. It’s a way to connect and socialise with each other. You could even find people in debt who choose to spend money on good food. Iranian food is very colourful and takes attention and time to prepare. Personally I love cooking because I think its a way to express my creativity, I grew up eating my mum’s food who is very creative and bold with her cooking. I feel proud when people ask my mum to cook for big celebrations, because they know she can manage to prepare the traditional and delicious dishes.

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My name is Elizabeth, I’m a mother of three from the Western part of Nigeria and I love cooking. My passion for cooking started from when I was a young girl and carried all the way to boarding school and then at university until I got married. I was always finding excuses to rustle up something in the kitchen! From baking little treats to handling large cookings for family parties, I have found myself constantly cooking for friends and family. I have had years of volunteering at a weekly soup kitchen in the heart of Tottenham and  much recently at Hackney Migrant Center. This passion brought me to Migrateful and the experience has been awesome. Not only do I get to learn various types of dishes but I also get to meet people from so many parts of the world! For someone who doesn’t travel around much like me, that’s the best part! I get to sneak a peak into all these countries… an absolute pleasure! Sharing my love for food is a really great way to feel a connexion with my roots, seeing the pleasure on people’s faces when they eat my food is the icing on top of the cake!

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Hello I’m Anastasia from the Ukraine. I grew up in a place called Kherson in the South of Ukraine. The Russians invested a lot of money in my city because it’s on the border with Turkey next to the sea and has very fertile land so strategically it’s a very important place. My food is very rich and heart warming – if you like Turkish food you’ll love my food because there’s a strong Turkish influence. Because my region is so fertile we cook with lots of dairy, vegetables and fish. 

When I was little I always loved to watch my mother cooking – I liked to help her cook and that’s how I learnt. We had a very communal household – everyone in Ukraine cooks. You’re told that if you don’t know how to cook you will never find a husband!

When I was at university, Ukraine wanted independence and that’s when the conflict with Russia started. The economy in Ukraine plummeted and all my family started to migrate. My sister went to Australia with my parents but I wasn’t allowed there, my visa was rejected. So I went to Russia. But because I had a Ukrainian accent and passport, people were very hostile to me, it was hard to get work. I came to the UK in 1999 and settled here.

I find London a lonely place. People are often hostile to me because I’m from Eastern Europe. People often know nothing about Ukraine. It means I’ve started to keep myself to myself and that has made me lonely. So Migrateful is a way to meet open minded people who share the same values as me. I’m so excited to talk to my class participants about my culture. It makes me feel very free. It’s a platform where I can really be myself and get my identity back. Here people are actually interested in me and my culture, it’s so lovey. Finally I feel like somebody.

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I am Kashi,  from Tanzania East Africa.  I love to cook and learn new recipes from all over the world. I learn to cook from very young age as is our traditional and most of the kitchen works done by girls and women in the household. I came to England 12 years ago, food was different from my country so my passion of cooking getting even bigger, I love to cook my swahili cuisines with the twist to make  healthy  food as I believe food is medicine. I love to use fresh ingredient and  spices in my food and do everything from the scratch.

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Hi! I’m Nafa. I am from the middle of Sri Lanka from a city called Kurunegala. We have three ethnicities in my city: Tamal, Singalese and Muslim. We all live together in this city and share 90% of the same food. My dad owned a restaurant in my city. So from the age of 10, I cooked together with my family for the guests. Everything was homemade. We never bought curry powder from the shop. We made it from scratch. It was a restaurant for locals. My father was a very good cook. From a very young age I watched my father cooking and that’s how I learnt.

I love cooking Sri Lankan food. Sri Lankan cuisine has been shaped by many historical and cultural factors. Contact with foreign traders who brought new food items, cultural influences from neighbouring countries as well as the local traditions of the country’s ethnic groups have all helped shape Sri Lankan cuisine. Influences from Indian (particularly South Indian), Indonesian and Dutch cuisines are particularly evident.

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I am Hadi from Herat, Afghanistan. I love Afghan and Persian traditional foods. I found it very interesting when my elders would talk to me about the different kind of foods we ate for different seasons. I was born a refugee in Iran because my parents were Afghan refugees. I was an outsider there; in Iran if your parents are not Iranian you will never be considered Iranian. In my late teens me and my family returned to Afghanistan. Because of my Iranian accent, the other Afghans did not consider me Afghan. I was so confused. Once again I felt like an outsider. Then I came to the UK and I was not considered British, I was an Afghan refugee. Now I’ve decided I don’t need a nationality, because I am human. Tell me if anyone out there is not?

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I am Lola and I am from Cuba. I like to make people laugh. I often can’t find the words in English, but I find a theatrical way to express myself especially when I’m teaching my recipes. I am passionate about Cuban food and I like teaching. I’m happy to speak Spanish in my classes and also teach some Cuban salsa moves. In Cuba I was a vet working with farm animals. I came to the UK 12 years ago to live with my daughter and her son. I only speak Spanish at home so I’ve never managed to learn English which feels very isolating when you live in a country where you can’t speak the language. I’m 72 years old, and I’ve decided I’m determined to try to learn English. Migrateful is helping me to do that because I get to practice English with my cookery students. I came from a very poor family in Cuba so I really value every meal I eat. One of my favourite dishes to teach is called “Congrí” which has black beans and white rice. This dish is about celebrating diversity in Cuba, when white and black people mix together.

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Hello, my name is Helen Goitom. I am from Eritrea. I was brought up in a city called Asmara – the capital city of Eritrea. My mother taught me to cook when I was 12 years old. I have 6 brothers and 2 sisters. My brothers never cooked, only me and my sisters. I have been in the UK for 1 year and 5 months. I got my refugee status last year, age 28. 

In 2014 I was forced to join the army in Eritrea. Everyone in my country had to join. Only my father couldn’t join because he was ill. After 3 years of being in the army I wanted to leave the army because it was very dangerous and scary, I didn’t like it. Often there was not enough food and water for the soldiers, there was never any rest, every day working and no rest. My father was very sick so I asked to go visit him in hospital. They wouldn’t let me. I escaped to see my father. The authorities went to the hospital and put me in prison. I spent 6 months in prison. Then my aunt’s son paid someone to help me escape.

I went to Sudan, then Turkey, the Greece, then Italy, Belgium. In Belgium 12 of us snuck into the back of a lorry, the driver was asleep, he didn’t notice us. And the lorry got to the UK.

I am happy here in London. People help me. There are so many amazing services. When I’m ill I can get medicine. In Eritrea there was no medicine. There were no good schools. I feel very grateful to be here. My friends who I met in the lorry I am very good friends with still, they are like family to me.

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My name is Awa. I’m from Gambia. My journey with food started with my mum who taught me everything she knows about food. It is a big tradition in my culture to follow our family legacy. We start cooking when we are very young. Our dishes are very flavourful and tasty, such as benachin (jollof rice) and chicken yassa (fried chicken with onions). We also have a lot of fish and seafood dishes. When I am cooking I feel very happy.

Since I got my refugee status in the UK I have found my love for food a great way to get me into work and connect with others.

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My name is Ahmad and I’m from Lebanon. I was shot by two bullets while I was working as a paramedic for the Lebanese Red Cross 10 years ago, so now I’m in a wheelchair. My hobbies include wheelchair basketball, swimming and cooking. I gain so much pleasure from cooking, I love the smell of freshly prepared food – especially when it contains garlic and coriander! Since Lebanon is located in the heart of the Middle East by the Mediterranean sea, its food combines the tastes and traditions of several civilisations and Arab cuisines.

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My name is Noor. I am from Lahore in Pakistan. I arrived to the UK three years ago, and I am still waiting for my asylum claim to be accepted. Lahore is famous for its food – everyone is obsessed with it. You will find food at any time of day or night. There are so many different dishes! I love cooking. My mum always cooked us many different dishes when I was growing up. She let me cook for the family at weekends and that is how I learned how to cook. Pakistani dishes are known for having aromatic and sometimes spicy flavours. Brown cardamom, green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and black pepper are the most commonly used spices in the making of a wide variety of dishes.

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My name is Lina from Syria, mother of three children, I came to the UK as a refugee in 2017 to escape the war in my country to protect my children and secure them a better future. From childhood I loved craftwork, I learned painting, sewing and knitting wool.

I learned the art of cooking from the age of fourteen. I was standing next to my grandmother and my mother and noticing how they cook, and then, as I helped my mother with the cooking, it became my favourite hobby. I spend endless hours cooking. I love it. I am obsessed with the smell of delicious food. If you know anything about Syrian food you know you are in for a treat.

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I grew up in the capital of Ghana called Accra with my Auntie who taught me how to cook. Life was difficult, but the cooking and food has always been important to me. In Ghanian food we always cook with pepper, onions, garlic, stock and lots of love. And this food reminds me of the people of Ghana who I miss dearly. I moved to the UK when I was 28, and now I am studying online at Bedford College ‘dignity and safeguard in adult social care’ and living with my little girl, Nana who loves to eat my food. I can’t wait to share it with all of you!

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My name is Urmila Nagarkoti. I’m from Nepal. I grew  up in a very small beautiful mountain village called Dahapokhari close to Kathmandu. Some people from my village are very wealthy and others are very poor. I come from a very poor family. We often struggled to have enough food and cloths to wear. Even though we had nothing we were very happy. We didn’t have enough money to go anywhere so we just stayed in our village. When I was older I went to the capital city of Kathmandu to look for work. I got a job and managed to save money to give to my family. They were so happy. First I went to Bahrain then I arrived in London. I have a working permit here. I want to earn money to send back to my family in Nepal. I really love London. I love cooking. I learnt how to cook from my mother, she is an incredible cook. What is difficult is not being able to speak English. But I am a fast learner, already my English is a lot better. My favourite food is potato, chickpeas and coriander curry. Cooking is my passion.

I really miss my family and I also feel the pressure to earn money for them. I am lucky to be here. But it’s hard.

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Hello! My name is Nahida and I’m from Bangladesh! I was brought up surrounded by Bengali cooking, which explores so many amazing flavours and so many exotic spices. Migrateful has given me the chance to meet people outside the Bengali community and to share my love of cooking.

I’m so happy teaching my recipes in Migrateful classes. Each class is different and I love spending time with people from a variety of backgrounds. It has made me proud to see them enjoying my food. Now I feel respected as a chef. Migrateful has given me the confidence and help to start my own catering company.

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Hello everyone! My name is Dan Hong Zheng. You can call me Denise if you like. l come from the South sea of China. My home town is very close to Taiwan. In my family, both my grandma and my father were great chefs. They taught me to cook when I was very young. I prefer seafood and all kinds of vegetables as my cooking ingredients of choice.

I submitted an asylum claim here in the UK in 2001, 19 years later I’m still waiting to get my refugee status. I am so happy that Migrateful has given me the chance to teach my traditional Chinese food.

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My name is Woin. I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and moved to London in the early 90s. I enjoy cooking and eating in the company of friends and family whilst being part of the diverse community which London offers. London provides the opportunity to learn and explore many other cultures and cuisines. 

Joining Migrateful has been such a privilege, thanks to the guidance and support it provides, offering women and men the chance to further develop and create opportunities to learn and engage. My involvement with Migrateful has enabled me to follow my passion and encouraged me to set up my own vegan catering business.

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My name is Elahe and I am from Iran. Not being able to communicate was one of the biggest barriers I faced when I arrived to the UK.  I was introduced to Jess through my dear daughter Parastoo and since then I have become very engaged and eager to dedicate myself to Migrateful. It has helped me to improve my confidence and self-esteem and to believe in my capabilities. I am cooking with love and passion again like in the old days. Food is a very special thing to me – I remember as a child waking up to the smell of my grandmother’s cooking and it’s beautiful aromas as she added the ingredients in the early mornings. I would like to thank Migrateful for offering me this great opportunity to make friends, use my talents and to succeed. It is hard not to love Iranian food. Typical Iranian main dishes are combinations of rice with meat (such as lamb, chicken, or fish), vegetables (such as onions and various herbs), and nuts. Fresh green herbs are frequently used, along with fruits such as plums, pomegranate, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. Characteristic Iranian flavourings such as saffron, dried lime, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed and used in special dishes.

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My name is Betty. I was born in Nigeria. I came to London when I was 16. It wasn’t

easy coming to a new country on my own, but I had to grow up fast. I don’t like to call myself a victim. I am a survivor. The thing I found most difficult when I first came to London was realising for the first time that I was different and that people looked at me differently here. I felt very alone. The first Christmas was the most lonely. I missed my family, especially my dad. I love to cook and I love to eat not just any food but good food. I feel alive when I see others enjoying my cooking. It is a form of therapy for me, I like to get my hands into something and cooking is the best way I can do that.

Nigerian cuisine has so many different dishes. We have lots of different tribes in Nigeria and different cultures and languages and so everyone has their own way of cooking. We celebrate every occasion with food – it’s a huge part of our culture. Cooking is something that Nigerian families always do together and recipes are passed on through generations. Sharing food with friends and family is really important to me and this is why I love Migrateful.

Joining Migrateful is one of the most rewarding things I have done for a long time. I never thought I could ever have the confidence to cook in front of other people that weren’t my family. It’s great to meet other chefs that are in a similar situation to me, also experiencing the difficulty of the immigration process. I can be myself in this group and I really appreciate it.

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Hi I’m Edite from Angola, a country located in the South-West of Africa. I grew up in a very beautiful city called “Malanje”. There are beautiful waterfalls there. People love socialising in Angola – we love to meet up and eat, drink and dance. Cemba and Kizomba are our traditional dances which you dance as a couple. It’s a very elegant and friendly dance. In Angola the national language is still Portuguese so our culture has been influenced a lot by them, especially our food. Our food is very rich, colourful and diverse. We have so many different types of fruit and vegetables in Angola. 

My grandmother taught me to cook when I was very young. She passed away when I was 12 but I always remember the dishes she taught me. I was feeling very isolated living in the UK, even though I arrived here 18 years ago. When I heard about Migrateful I knew this would be a great way to get out of the house, meet people, share my skills and also learn from others. I am very grateful to Migrateful because this opportunity is helping me to reconnect to my roots and keep the knowledge of my traditions alive. I feel very proud to share with London my Angolan culture. It’s helping me to remember who I am and where I’ve come from.

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Hello I’m Delores from Jamaica. 

I love cooking delicious, nutritional food, using lots of garlic and spices. I was born into a family of chefs. As a young child growing up, I always helped my Grandmother with the cooking, preparing different dishes whilst my mother was out working as a chef. In 2001 I came to the UK on my own, then in 2005 they took away my immigration status and I was no longer allowed to work – 15 years ago and I’m still waiting! 

Luckily I am a very positive person, I love singing and my belief in God has kept me strong all these years. I really do love to cook and entertain people. I feel very positive when I’m cooking. A dish that reminds me of home is rice and peas. In my country we didn’t cook rice in the week – only on Sunday. So rice, peas and chicken is like the Sunday roast equivalent in the UK. In the week we eat yam, green banana, cassava.

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“Hello. I am Yusuf. I come from the North of Syria. I grew up in a big family where my mother spent every day cooking. Sitting down and eating all together was an essential part of my upbringing. An exciting part of this was that every day two to three neighbours would bring us dishes to eat and we would give them a dish in exchange. It was an amazing way to keep trying new things!  

I came to the UK four years ago. During this time I lived with two different British families. I was cooking some Syrian recipes and they showed interest in the taste of the food and the way I cook using mainly vegetables and some types of wheat, corn, and bulgur, with a selection of appetizers like hummus and labneh, bread and some dairy mixed with olive oil and courses based on what our land provides us with. In Syria we have very fertile land and an incredible climate for growing food.  

Syria is located on the east side of the Mediterranian and it is the biggest country of the Levant region, which was a host for several civilizations. Our diet has evolved over thousands of years from many different influences which is what makes it so delicious. 

If you’re wondering what authentic, home cooked Syrian food is really like, I promise you I will be able to show you. 

I joined Migrateful to give me a platform to integrate, cook and teach my recipes to different people from the around world. Food is what unites us. One of my favourite Syrian sayings is “the hungry bird doesn’t dance, so let’s break bread together and talk.”

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Hi, I’m Majeda, a human right activist from Syria! 

I had been working as a children’s therapist when the war broke out in Syria in 2011. Me and my family had lived a happy and privileged life in a big house in Damascus. I organised an initiative to feed the thousands of displaced Syrians who were arriving in the capital, having had their homes bombed by the Syrian government. As a result of this activism, I was imprisoned by the regime. I eventually managed to escape Syria and now use food to continue my campaigning in exile. In December 2017, I got refugee status in the UK and my two boys have now come to join me.

I believe there is a relationship between cooking and love and that preparing a meal for the one you love, combining your skills and your feelings to create something, can convey a lot to the person: be it husband, children or friends. People usually leave my cookery classes newly politicised about the Syrian situation and delighted by our incredibly tasty food.

Bristol chefs

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Hi I am Tilly from the South of Sri Lanka. I arrived in the UK on my own in my teens and I didn’t know how to cook. I was starving many days as I didn’t know how to cook and I missed my mother’s food. One time she rang me and asked me what I was eating in England so I told her I was very hungry and not eating properly. So my mother said “take the phone to the kitchen and follow my cooking instructions”. That’s how I learnt to cook – over the phone! I miss mainly three things about my mother country; my family, the food and the weather. Sri Lanken food is delicious and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to teach others how to cook it!

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Hi my name is Atiqa and I come from Pakistan. Cooking is a really important part of my life. When I cook it connects me to my mum and my country, Pakistan. For some reason, I got disconnected from my family and whenever I cook I feel like my mother is there. I learnt to cook when I came to the UK but anything I make is inspired by my countries flavours! Abbottabbad is my city in the north of Pakistan. It’s a big city with lots of tourists, bordering Afghanistan. My food and the way I dress shares many features with Afghan culture.

 

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Hello, I’m Sereh from Gambia. I was brought up in a town called Boo Noknok manok. My mother wasn’t around when I was growing up so my great grandmother taught me to cook when I was very young. In Gambia all young girls learn how to sweep, boil the rice, wash your cloths and look after yourself from a very young age. My mother tongue is Mandinka. I arrived 11 years ago to Bristol. I have a strong community here. I’m still waiting to get my status from the Home Office so I can start working. I really love cooking. I would like to be a professional chef one day. I love dancing and learning new things. I wanted to join Migrateful because I love cooking so much and I’m excited to teach others about my food

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Hello, I am Negla from Sudan. My grandmother taught me to cook (my mother died when I was 15 years old) when I got married age 19 – she explained to me it’s very important to be able to cook for your husband. But even then I didn’t take much interest in cooking because my auntie and sisters always did the cooking at home. Then 10 years ago my family and I were forced to leave Sudan because of the war and we arrived to the UK as refugees. We didn’t have my sisters around anymore so I had to start cooking for my family. It was the first time I had properly cooked for my husband. I have 3 daughters and one son. They liked my cooking a lot. I started to to try lots of different dishes and then I realised I was an amazing cook.

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