Charlie Hilton is currently based in Samos, Greece, carrying out inspirational work for the grassroots NGO Project Armonia which supports refugees trapped on the Greek island.
On the island, the queue for food can last several hours, and the food packs distributed in the camp consist of partially defrosted microwaveable meals regularly past their sell-by-dates, often containing maggots or mould.
Project Armonia was established in July 2019 to address this failure- operating a free-restaurant that serves warm, nutritious meals to the most vulnerable members of the refugee community.
“I’ve always seen good food as an essential part of life,” Charlie explains.
“Whether it’s childhood memories of sitting at the dinner table, or cooking up an enormous meal for my friends, I love the warmth and the camaraderie of eating good food together.
And this is what is so important when it comes to good eating; more often than not, it is the atmosphere that is created when we eat together, and the memories that are triggered when enjoying a certain meal.
It was precisely this that attracted me to Project Armonia, and it is what I have worked hard to capture in the cookbook, No One Cooks Alone.
Two years on and we’re now serving 1,100 people a day, but beyond this impressive milestone is something equally inspiring.
We are led in our mission by a team predominantly from the refugee community itself, representing 22 different nationalities from the Central Asian Steppelands to the West Coast of Africa.
The Armonia kitchen is home to an array of different languages, religions, political beliefs and cultural traditions, all united by the simple desire to serve good food to those who need it most.
For me, Armonia represents the transformative power of food, as it brings people together, uplifting them in their time of need, restoring dignity and humanity with every portion given out.
And this was our ambition with the cookbook, No One Cooks Alone; to bring people together, as we share the stories and cooking traditions from our chefs’ respective home countries.
The recipes within are as diverse as our team; indeed they have been especially selected by our volunteers as their favourite meals from their home countries, carried with them across deserts and oceans as they escape war and persecution.
We see this book as an outstretched hand from Samos to the rest of the world, welcoming others into the Armonia kitchen to join us as we celebrate our love of food.
If there is one thing that we have learnt from our work in the Armonia kitchen, it is that there are more things that unite us than separate us. Indeed, all anyone ever really wants from life is a feeling of security and a good portion of food.
I believe the recipes and stories within our cookbook speak to that simple truth, and I hope that this book might be the source of many happy mealtimes with friends and family, as well as a source of inspiration to welcome others to your table and share in the goodness of food.”
No One Cooks Alone can be bought online, at: https://www.projectarmonia.org/shop/
All proceeds from the sale of this book will be invested directly into our free-restaurant, enabling us to continue in our mission, serving food to the most vulnerable members of the refugee community.