A talented restaurateur seeking asylum in Australia has brought a taste of Iran to Sydney’s north west with the recent opening of his own business, Shahrood Restaurant.
The business is a dream that’s been three years in the making and is testament to the drive and entrepreneurial spirit of Ali and his wife Sam, who arrived in Australia in 2012 but did not initially have the right to work.
Originally from Iran, Ali had spent the past 19 years in Malaysia where he founded the Jaam-e-Jam Restaurant in a nod to his Persian roots.
With the support of family and friends overseas, the couple raised funds to open the Shahrood Restaurant in Ryde in March, where they serve traditional Persian cuisine including koobideh – a type of barbecue kebab – and qaliye mahi – a fish and vegetable stew.
“Some of the food is from my hometown. I want to show it to people so they know about Persian food,” Ali said.
“I’m very glad to come to Australia because now I’ve opened a restaurant I can work here. It’s a very free country. I’m very happy here.
“Our Settlement Services International (SSI) case managers have helped us with everything. They’re always helpful.”
Ali hopes to expand Shahrood Restaurant into multiple locations in the future.
“I want to do something to help create more jobs for other people so they can work as well,” he said. “I hope I can make roots in Australia using my cooking. Eventually I would like to branch into farming and run my own winery.
“When I was young, I spent 15 or 16 years farming, so I know a lot about farming and grapes. My parents owned a big farm. My hometown in Iran is famous for the grapes, and you can’t find some of them in Australia. I would like to bring some of those grapes out and grow them in Australia in my own winery.”
One of Ali’s favourite things about Sydney is its proximity to the renowned Hunter Valley winery region.
“I love the beach, I love playing golf and swimming, and I love that it’s near to the Hunter Valley because I want to open my own winery there,” he said.
Ali – who is supported by SSI’s Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) program, which provides support to asylum seekers living in the community – said he was grateful for the support he had received from SSI and the Australian Government.
"SSI supported us through our business. We want to thank SSI, the government and Centrelink for helping us during these years. We appreciate them and hope to help and work with them in future also."