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Meet the Chefs


Co-Founder and Head Chef
"Most smiles are started by another smile."

"My name is Nieda. I’m from Baghdad, Iraq, and I have faced a lot of challenges because I was displaced by the war in my country. I left Iraq for Syria because of the war. I lived there for eight years, but then the conditions became worse and war broke out there too. I was heartbroken, because I had nowhere else to go. My friend told me that she was going to Turkey, because there was a program to register to move to the United States there. I liked her idea, so we planned to go together. Eventually, we all moved to Turkey.


Turkey was a whole different country. It was really difficult to communicate with the people there. I worked as a hairdresser there, because that was the only job I could find due to my limited knowledge of the Turkish language. While my family and I were waiting to get resettled to the United States, we faced a lot of challenges with schooling, jobs, language, communication, and many other aspects of daily life. After two years and half of waiting, we finally got accepted.

We finally moved to New Haven four years ago. I thought that in the United States it would be easy for me to find a job, but it was not. It is really hard for me to find a job here because of the language. I have been dreaming of getting a job cooking food for a long time. My dream here in the United States was to open a restaurant, but I have had to put this dream on pause because of financial and linguistic difficulties. One of my daughter’s friends, Caterina (our lovely team coordinator), has helped us with a lot of things. My daughters know English, but sometimes it is hard for them to understand things, so Caterina helped them with homework whenever they needed. I feel like she is like my daughter and when she comes over to spend time with my daughters, I make food for all of us. Caterina loved my food and she always told me it was delicious.


One day she came to my house, where we all were sitting, and she told me that Yale students and the administrators at Yale wanted to try my food. We ran a few trial runs, and everyone loved it! Caterina, other students from the team, and I started to think about making food and selling it regularly at Yale butteries. I am now so grateful to have this opportunity. Food is everything to me and I’m sure to others also because it makes you happy and it is a way for me to share my culture and my country with students in New Haven. I am excited about the opportunity to help other women learn to cook and find jobs in the food business."


Spring 2019 Fellows


"I am Faten. I am from Homs, Syria, and I came to America in July 2016. In Syria, I worked as a hairdresser. When I first came to America, I lived in Mansfield, where I volunteered at a school kitchen.


My goal in working at Havenly was to learn, to come out with knowledge, and to open my own shop and support refugees on my own from all over the world. I really enjoyed the work. Washing dishes was tiring, but I liked making the pastries. It was a really nice feeling to receive my first paycheck and to have my own money. In the future, I would like to start a project with my friend and work together to make pastries."



My name is Hala and I am from Homs, Syria. I have four kids and came to America in 2016. I came to Havenly because the work seemed fun and interesting, and I like working with pastries. It was reassuring to have consistent work, and I liked learning to make baklava for myself and for my family. Receiving my first paycheck was amazing. Now that you have money, you can go spend it on whatever you want. In the future, I want to open a bakery with my friend.