‘Elate na fate mazi mas’ (come eat with us) is the traditional Greek welcome, deeply ingrained in our culture, from which the Mazi Mas restaurant took its name.
Founded as a social enterprise in London in 2012, Mazi Mas begins with the story of one woman, Maria Marouli. When Marouli migrated with her family to the US in the 1970s, she was poorly educated yet an excellent cook; her dream was to open her own bakery.
But the mere thought of a woman running her own business was unsettling to her traditionalist husband and so Marouli never came to realise her aspiration. Instead, she worked as a nanny and passed her love for cooking onto a little girl, her goddaughter, Nikandre Kopcke.
Some 25 years later, Kopcke found herself in London as a gender studies graduate, where she spent time volunteering in community kitchens and met migrant women who were unable to enter the workforce due to the language barrier or limited support from home.

As a tribute to her godmother, Kopcke wanted to launch a project that would help these women achieve what Maria Marouli could not: realise their dream of opening their own business.
Mazi Mas took something as intimate as home cooking and elevated it into a feminist not-for-profit social enterprise.
It serves home-cooked meals and is run exclusively by women from refugee and migrant communities, who gain experience in the industry and develop their skills until they are ready to jump to the next step and open their own restaurant.
Mazi Mas London has now found its niche at the Ovalhouse theatre and arts space in Kennington, while it wasn’t long before the enterprise expanded Down Under.
The Sydney branch opened in October 2014 and successfully held its first event in Darlinghurst.

Since then, it has been operating as a roaming eatery, organising dinners at various locations, and has provided employment and training for more than 20 women who have arrived in Sydney as refugees or asylum seekers.
Maggie Lloyd and Michelle Freer are the directors of the Sydney sister organisation, offering their services on a volunteer basis.
Lloyd met Kopcke while they were both studying at the London School of Economics, and when Kopcke laid out her vision of Mazi Mas, the idea captivated Lloyd.
“It struck me as something that was universal, a way to recognise and reward the work women do behind the scenes all over the world – which normally goes unpaid and unrecognised – while propping up the economy.

“Mazi Mas is taking something intimate and intricate – home cooking, which has long been a burden for women – and celebrating these skills with the public, in the formal economy,” Lloyd tells Neos Kosmos.
Being a food-loving city and a place where migrant and refugee communities face challenges with unemployment, Sydney seemed like a breeding ground for the venture, as Lloyd explains.
Another factor that prompted the team’s decision was their intention to break the cycle of employment disparity for females in the chef trade.
According to NSW government statistics, back in 2012 women accounted for a mere 16 per cent of chefs in the state and Lloyd, who was alarmed by these numbers, thought it was about time to overhaul the under-representation of women in this male-dominated trade.
“A passion for cooking usually begins from a young age at home. So I thought, what’s going on? Can we help change the game?”
With Kopcke’s support from the UK and thanks to a grant offered by the City of Sydney, Mazi Mas opened its doors to east coast foodies last year.
Guests are invited to tuck into moreish meals representing global home cooking at its best.
“We’ve had different women curating the menu for each event, with cuisines ranging from Sri Lankan, Pakistani, to Nigerian and Fijian.
At our last dinner the menu included green apple curry, ‘brinjal’ eggplant curry and Pakistani green spice chicken served with dhal,” Lloyd explains.
The enterprise has been collaborating with the Asylum Seekers Centre in NSW, which refers staff to the project through an employment assistance program, and NGOs providing humanitarian assistance, such as Settlement Services International (SSI), while interested individuals are always welcome to contact Mazi Mas directly.

The team is currently looking at expanding its operations in Sydney and other cities and hopes to be able to hire even more people in the near future.
All women employed are paid at above the award wage; they also have the opportunity to obtain formal qualifications that will support them in their further career progression.
Training courses include a Food Safety Supervisor Certificate, a Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate and additional bar training through an educational community program focusing on women’s empowerment.
The pop up dinners take place every few months in different locations with the support of venue partners who facilitate the premises.
The most recent event was held at a cafe in Ultimo for three nights at the end of September.

With the next dinner yet to be announced, Sydney food lovers are advised to be on the lookout for the release date as the events are selling out quickly.
“We’ve had an incredibly warm response from guests. Usually quite a few people contact us after each event asking about the next one, offering ideas for venues or asking for recipes,” Lloyd says.
If you find yourself at their next event, don’t be surprised if the chefs come out and talk to you about their food, where they learned to cook or even share some secret ingredients. The Mazi Mas kitchen is calmer than most and employees take an intimate approach towards guests, making them feel like home.
People may visit Mazi Mas for the first time to support the social mission behind it, but ultimately they keep coming back because the home-cooked food that is served tastes great.
“A community of support has started to grow around us, which is a testament to the skills these women bring to the table,” Lloyd concludes.
For more information about upcoming events visit www.mazimas.com.au/ or check out the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/mazimassydney?fref=ts