11 January 2023

Iranian asylum seeker plans to add hookah lounge to new Yenda eatery

| Oliver Jacques
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Chef with food trays

Mir Yosef Saadat offers dolma and baklava at his new cafe. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Mir Yousef Saadat, a 36-year-old Iranian who sought asylum in Australia in 2013, has spiced up the heart of Yenda by opening a new Middle Eastern eatery in the small town.

The modestly named Yenda Kebab House, which opened just before Christmas, features a lot more than shaved meat wrapped in Lebanese bread. The menu includes several Turkish delicacies that are usually hard to find outside big cities, including gozleme (crispy flatbread filled with spinach, chicken or beef), dolma (stuffed grape leaves) and baklava (a layered pastry dessert covered in syrup).

Mr Saadat, who worked as a chef in Iran, decided to open his store when he noticed there were few places to eat out in Yenda.

“I was living in Griffith, but then went to Turkey in 2019. When I came back, I couldn’t find anywhere to live in Griffith so I moved to Yenda, where I found a place to rent,” he said.

“I noticed an empty shop [in the centre of town], and I found out that my landlord owns it. There’s not many places to go out for dinner here, so I decided to turn it into a kebab shop.”

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The new eatery is a joint venture between Mr Saadat, from the Western Iranian city of Naqadeh, and his business partner and countryman Mohammed Baghaei, originally from Shiraz.

They plan to one day expand the business to include an outdoor hookah (a waterpipe with sweetened tobacco) lounge and to add to his menu with items such as pide (Turkish pizza).

“There is no place to smoke shisha [waterpipes] in Griffith. I have many friends who like it, but right now they can only get it in Sydney,” Mr Saadat said.

”I have a back outdoor area where, in the future, I can put some chairs and people can smoke shisha while they drink tea.”

Four girls at a hookah bar

Hookah bars are common in Sydney, but imagine one in Yenda in the future. Photo: Sean Molin/Flickr.

Opening a new eatery is a big success story for Mr Saadat, who said he was lucky to survive a harrowing journey to Australia after being forced to flee his unstable homeland.

“I went from Iran to Indonesia. I spent 15 days on a boat travelling from Indonesia to Darwin,” he said. ”Twice the boat broke down, the Indonesia police found us and we went to jail and then got back on the boat.

“I’ll never forget that trip. One day it was raining so hard, everyone thought we were going to die. In the ocean you just couldn’t see anything – all you could see was water. I was very scared. I don’t recommend people come to Australia this way, it is very dangerous.”

A young chef

A young Yosef Saadat as a chef in Iran. Photo: Supplied.

After spending 45 days in detention in Darwin, he was able to move to Griffith, where he had family living. He worked for chicken producer Baiada and at various kebab shops before going out on his own.

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Mr Saadat thanks not-for-profit support service provider Centacare for helping with paperwork and Western Riverina Community College for providing the qualifications he needed.

Centacare’s Joanne Fitzpatrick is proud of what he has achieved.

“Yousef works so hard and it’s great to see him do something different. I can’t wait to get out there and try his food,” she said.

“We provided general support, filling out forms and pointing him in the right direction.

”It’s hard to be able to do things when you arrive in Australia, so it’s nice to have someone who can explain things and help people.”

Yenda Kebab House, at 4 Yenda Place, is open Monday through to Saturday.

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