Cook for Palestine

We spoke to MasterChef contestant, Raheel Mirza about his Cook for Palestine online classes, fundraising for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

How long have you been engaged in the Palestinian cause?

I have been engaged now for about 2 decades, ever since my university days. When I was younger, I was less informed about politics but now I am much more aware of the humanitarian aspect of the ongoing occupation and current war.

As a husband, a father, an uncle, a cousin, a human I am appalled at the scenes we are witnessing in Gaza. I also have a deep connection from a religious perspective.

Can you tell us a little bit more about you?

I was brought up in a Pakistani household here in the UK. My parents came in their teenage years, and I was born, raised, and educated here. Like the Palestinians, food is a very important part of our family's culture. It was an open, fun household with strong family and religious values.

I got married 20 years ago this year and have 2 daughters who are 13 and 3 years old. I originally studied optometry before moving into professional leadership training and helping change management in corporations.

I entered Master Chef and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. In lockdown I wanted to use my cooking skills to raise funds for good causes and to bring people together. In 2021 we broke a  Guinness World Record for the most number of people cooking simultaneously.

I have joined a number of your virtual cooking classes and love how simple you make what I would normally find a complex dish. I can also now cook rice for the first time ever thanks to you! What do you enjoy most about the cook-a-longs?

I enjoy a number of things. Firstly, connecting with people, cooking is a great way for people to understand each other.

It creates so much positivity as well. Feedback from those who took part who were nervous or stressed about cooking but then they shared how much they enjoyed themselves and learned something new makes me feel really happy.

It also helps to raise funds for vital causes such as Medical Aid for Palestinians. Charity is the cornerstone of my business as I firmly believe if you look after people your profits will look after themselves.

What would you say to someone who is new to cooking and nervous to join an online class?

A few things actually. Firstly, you can always join the first one and just watch and see how you feel and if you are comfortable join and cook with us on the next one. Secondly, you do not have to have your camera on so if you are nervous no one will know.

And maybe most importantly, anyone can cook! During the class, you can ask questions out loud or in the chat function. We also can all make mistakes together and learn as a collective.

70% of participants have said the bit they enjoy most is the social aspect and of course, learning to cook something new!

I understand you have had people from all over the world show their solidarity with the people of Palestine by joining your virtual cooking classes. Can you tell us more?

We have had people from 29 countries in the last 3 cook-a-longs for Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. That has meant people from every continent except Antarctica. If you add up the number of people who have joined each of the last 3 we have had just under 1,400 join us.

To date, we have raised over £16,500 for Medical Aid for Palestinians and £3,000 for the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. But it is not just about the vital funds raised it is also raising awareness of the reality right now in Palestine and showing our solidarity.

Can you tell us about the next event?

It is happening this Saturday 23rd March at 5.30pm with a Tandoori Chicken dish, with vegetarian options as well. We want to get as many people to join as possible.

It costs less than £4 to take part per household and there is of course the opportunity to donate to MAP!

You can follow me on my social media channels @raheelmirzacooking and on Facebook (Raheel Mirza). For anyone who signs up for a private cooking session with me through this, I will donate 10% of my fee to MAP.

I also do corporate teambuilding events so I can be contacted about those using the same channels above or by email at [email protected].

Thank you for your support, Raheel! You can join Raheel's next online cooking class by booking your ticket here. 

If you are interested in fundraising for MAP, please let us know your fundraising idea by emailing [email protected]. You can also find out more about what you can do here

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