Forced To Flee His Country With Only £12, This Syrian Refugee Now Owns A London Restaurant


Siti Aishah Ahmad •  Sep 30, 2021

The Inspiring Story of A Refugee Who Made It In London

Where there's a will, there's a way. Everyday, there are stories of people rising from the ashes and work their way up to success. CNN and The Guardian tell the story of a Syrian refugee who fled his country with a mere £12 but now, he's a successful chef who owns a restaurant in Soho, an expensive neighbourhood in London.

How It All Started

Credit: @imadssyriankitchen on Instagram

Six years ago, Imad Alarnab was a chef in Damascus, the capital of Syria. Owner of three restaurants and several coffee shops and juice bar, he was a wealthy and comfortable man in his country. But when the war broke out, Alarnab lost his businesses to bombings and he and his family had no other choice but to seek refuge elsewhere. He arrived in the UK in the autumn of 2015 with little to no money. He shares with CNN that his journey to the UK was a challenging one. But, that didn't stop the hard-working chef from surviving in a foreign country. He worked as a car washer and salesman in London before eventually picking up his previous career from where he had to leave it off in Syria.

Day and night, Alarnab worked hard to support his family and for awhile his cooking skills were confined to his home kitchen. However, things started to look brighter in 2017, when he collaborated with various charities such as UK's refugee charity Choose Love, UNICEF Next Generation Project and The Hampstead Kitchen Feed Fund.

Through word of mouth, his Syrian dishes were starting to get more popular recognition among different people.  Before long, Imad's Syrian Kitchen found its spot in Soho, London, one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Covid-19 Pandemic Hit His Business

Alarnab's very first London restaurant had been planned to open in 2020 but regrettably for him and his excited customers, his plans were forced to put on hold. During national lockdowns, restaurants were banned from serving customers indoor and many businesses did not survive.

This seems like another great setback for his thriving career as a chef and an entrepreneur but Alarnab is no stranger to challenges. With his strong will and faith in God and karma, he faced the unknown future with courage. He knew something good will happen to him someday and he was right. Imad's Syrian Kitchen finally opened its doors to the public in May 2021. It was a gamble to open during these uncertain times but he still took the risk.

Imad's Syrian Kitchen

Credit: @imadssyriankitchen on Instagram

His restaurant instantly became popular and as the UK eases Covid-19 restrictions and dining in is allowed in restaurants, Alarnab's restaurant is fully booked for every weekend for the next few months. Yet, it is not a surprise that customers flock to Imad's Syrian Kitchen.

It is widely known that Alarnab cooks up only the most delicious dishes in his Syrian cuisine and any foodie would be excited to show up in his restaurant. His menu consists of food that his mother taught him while he was growing up in Syria. Unfortunately, his mother passed away during his migration to the UK but her legacy and recipes continue to bring smiles to him and his customers.

Credit: @imadssyriankitchen on Instagram

Other than serving top-notched and unique dishes, his restaurant oozes the warmth of a comforting home. The decor and family-sized tables give his customers the sense that they are home instead of a mundane eatery.

Imad Alarnab's experience is a truly a moving one. It is a poignant and realistic rags to riches story. No matter what life throws at us, we always need to get up back stronger everyday.

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