We had the good fortune of connecting with Suzanne Ling and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Suzanne, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
In Malaysia, we have close to 180,000 refugees registered under UNCHR. However, as Malaysia is not a signatory of the Refugee Convention, refugees are not allowed to work legally and attend public school. This causes many of them to struggle financially as they wait for resettlement, and many children are also unable to get quality education due to the lack of learning centres & teachers for the community.

Back in 2013, my friends and I started volunteering in a refugee learning centre as teachers when we were university students. After teaching for close to 3 years, we realised many of our students started to drop out at the age of 13, 14 to work at convenient stores, restaurants and marts illegally to earn an extra income for their family. We started thinking of ways to help refugee families be more financially stable, and the idea of selling food came to mind.

Since many individuals from the refugee community can cook, and everyone needs to eat everyday, why not start a food business where the refugee community become chefs and earn from selling their food?

That’s how PichaEats was started in January 2016. Since then, we’ve grown to train more chefs and cater for more consumers, including brands like Facebook, Google, AMEX, World Bank and more

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
PichaEats is a social enterprise based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia that aims to enable change through food.

Since 2016, we partner with individuals from the refugee community to bring delicious meals to events, corporations, homes and more. All meals are lovingly cooked by chefs from Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, Afghanistan & Iraq, who are currently seeking for refuge in Malaysia.

We provide delivery, buffet catering, gifting & frozen food, with the tagline – as they’re putting food on your table, you’re putting food on theirs.

When we started PichaEats, there was a huge stigma towards the refugee community, and the most frequently asked questions we got were often, “is the food clean?”, “will i get sick?”, “why help the ‘outsiders’?”. There is a lack of understanding and awareness towards the refugee community in Malaysia and the refugee situation as a whole globally.

Through PichaEats, we do not just aim to help families earn a living through cooking, but to also raise awareness towards this topic through food. We believe that food brings people together, and we believe strongly in culinary diplomacy.

In the last 7 years, we brought people and communities together through food, built bridges for corporations to be able to support the refugee community, and showcased the positive stories and strengths of our chefs who are unfortunately always seen as “victims”. Through our years of working with the chefs, despite what they’ve gone through (war, persecution, loss of family members and home), they are incredibly strong, resilient, positive, hospitable and loving. We want to bring light to this and to show the world that refugees are not just “victims” or “a burden” – they’re capable individuals who have so much to offer if we open the door and give them the platform to do so.

We hope that through our work, we’re able to incorporate the community into our economy, giving them the legal rights to work in Malaysia to contribute to our economy and to provide for their families while waiting for resettlement.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I will bring my best friend to the houses of the Picha Chefs to enjoy the amazing food that they make, and to meet the lovely chefs and their families whom we work closely with

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My co-founders, Kim Lim & Swee Lin. Our mentors & advisors (too many to name). Our clients, family & friends.

Website: www.pichaeats.com

Instagram: @pichaeats

Linkedin: Suzanne Ling

Facebook: @pichaeats

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.