MyGRANT METAMORPHOSIS – funded by the European Union


The original taste of integration
5 May 2021


Orient Experience is more than just a restaurant, it is a place where people could taste original dishes, by experimenting social inclusion.

Orient Experience is a restaurant that hires disadvantaged people and refugees to support social inclusion offering professional careers.

In 2012, Hamed Ahmadi founded the first Orient Experience in Venice, Italy to give job opportunities to people in need.

The idea came up from the common perspective that travelling and food create original mixes. Indeed, travelling sometimes leads to adapt dishes to available ingredients and local traditions, therefore, mixes are innovative results being worth of tasting.

Since the idea was really creative and the project idea was welcome due to its strong commitment toward social inclusion, after a while other Orient Experience restaurant with the same mission and aim, have been launched in Venice, Kabul and Catane (Sicily, Italy).

For the most, employees come from difficult situations and backgrounds, hence the restaurant is the way to offer support and a chance of integration with local community. Nevertheless, refugees represent just a part of the staff, since abandoned young people as well as unemployed with particular background are welcome, if they want to actively contribute to the development of the project.

InfoData reported that the percentage of immigrants with Italian citizenship grew up from 2012 until 2017. The percentage registered an increase of at least 24,5% in comparison with 2012. It means that find a way to convey messages of peaceful coexistence is very necessary nowadays.

Hamed found his own way to reply to this need by setting up a restaurant able to include people with different cultural backgrounds to offer integration and professional chance of development. In the meantime, he run a business able to approach local people with an original mix of traditional taste and Asian ones.

When first Hamed Ahmadi moved in Italy, it was the 2006 and he attended the Exhibition of the Venice Film Festival to present the movie “Maama, Buddha, the girl and the water”.

He was just 25 years old when he moved from Kabul in Venice with the idea of presenting the movie and going back in Afghanistan. But, since he has been threatened by Afghan people because of the movie, he decided to present his candidature to get the refugee status from Italian government. And it was so.

By staying in the Initial Reception Center, he started working as cultural mediator with young people and refugees, involving them in activities to keep them active and productive for the community. Therefore, they had the idea of planning a party with the main theme such as travels and food, finding the linkage between both to develop original dishes by mixing the recipes with local Italian products. What came up was an innovative idea that leaded Hamed to set up his first business in Italy: Orient Experience.

Orient Experience is more than just a restaurant, it is a place where people could taste original dishes, by experimenting social inclusion. Indeed, employees are all regularly hired and work in kitchen or as waiters depending on their personal attitude. It is not requested that people have previous experience as long as they own the willingness to learn a new job and to work hard to keep the restaurant a peaceful place for integration.

Initially it was not easy to set up the business, indeed Hamed had no money to invest in the activity, but due to the effort of friends and colleagues, he has found the way to develop his brilliant idea.

Since he received many positive feedbacks from clients as well as from organizations, he launched three more Orient Experience restaurants throughout Italy, with the purpose of keeping on growing his business.

Nowadays, there are two Orient Experience in Venice (Orient Experience 1 and 2), one in Kabul (Orient Experience 3) and one more in Catane (Orient Experience 4). The last one is active since three months and it is sponsored by UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) and combines both two projects of social inclusions: Isola Quassud managed by Emanuela Pistone and the Refugees (Food) Experience of Hamed Ahmadi.

The success of this initiative reached an amazing outreach, indeed Hamed Ahmadi launched new businesses with the same core values: Africa Experience in Venice, Peace&Spice in Padua, and some others to testify how Italy care about multiculturalism.

The main objective of Orient Experience is giving a chance of integration to people in need from refugees to people with complicated background through a professional career that often offers a chance to support social inclusion.

All workers are regularly hired and even though it is not requested that all of them are skilled, the attitude to team-work and hard work are essential to set up a progressive career within the restaurant.

Trust and abilities are rewarded by managers and as long as people spread a special attitude in a specific field, they have the chance to grow up and progress on their career. People with passion for food, usually work in kitchen and by starting as chef-assistant, have the chance to become themselves chef, enriching their cultural knowledge and their skills. People with attitude for public relations start as waiters to improve their relational skills dealing with clients and suppliers time by time.

By the way, this restaurant represents the right place to rescue people by the street and to give a productive meaning to time and skills.