He’s not a big talker, Mo Zarkwai. You could call him our Rotterdam kitchen’s silent force: quiet, polite and a hard worker. In the presence of his friend and colleague Rami he somewhat unwinds. Like Mo, Rami is also from Syria, and acts as an interpreter during our conversation. They had an instant connection, both being driven to The Netherlands by war. They also both spent some time in AZC’s waiting for worker’s permits and a permanent residence. Eventually, through Stichting Nieuw Thuis, Mo ended up at De Nieuwe Poort.

That was about a year ago. The kitchen work suits Mo, thanks to his experience as a chef back in Syria. When we ask about his biggest inspiration on the job, Rami interrupts: ‘Me, of course!’ He gets a big laugh, but he’s not far off: Mo loves people. Colleagues like Rami, but also others in his social circle, like the people that help him navigate language, school and work. And naturally his family, his wife and two young daughters. If he’s able to give them a bright future, then life has been a success, as far as Mo is concerned.

If I’m able to give my daughters a bright future, then for me, life has been a success.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have dreams of his own, though. For now, his job at De Nieuwe Poort suits him just fine, but he would one day like to open his own restaurant. One with an Arabic-Dutch fusion menu. Mo happens to be an expert on the mixing of conflicting flavours, Rami tells us. Mo says nothing and sips his tea with a shy smile. Like we said: a silent force.