Shahid Burney

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, to a Pakistani mum and Indian dad, Shahid experienced the systemic discrimination against his heritage that was typical of the time he grew up in. In his mid-teens, with no access to university in sight, Shahid actively protested this inequity. After being arrested and imprisoned, Shahid sought asylum in Switzerland where he was granted permanent residency. During his 17 years there, he undertook extensive professional training in hospitality, worked as a chef and manager of restaurants and hotels, and upped his tally of spoken languages to six! In his travels to Thailand he met his wife, Pornpimon Chummongkol, and discovered a passion for cooking Thai food.

The complexity of its flavours continually inspires him to experiment with his style of cooking, which freely crosses cultures and cuisines. Even his traditional Pakistani dishes now carry influences of his global journeys.

Shahid returned to Pakistan to honour the passing of his mum. Unaware of a condition of his residency status when attempting to return to Switzerland, Shahid was denied re-entry. He discovered that he had been stripped of his rights and lost every possession, his livelihood and the security he’d worked hard to achieve. Remaining in Pakistan for another four years, he and his wife rebuilt their lives, even owning a restaurant. But with the instatement of another moderate government, crackdowns on people of his background reoccurred – many people disappeared, including friends of his.

Shahid became a refugee for the second time, travelling to Australia with his family to seek asylum. He’s still going through the process. Meanwhile, he continues to add strings to his culinary bow, achieving professional qualifications here in commercial cookery and patisserie, and working as a chef with a catering company. Shahid is really excited to be joining the Free to Feed team, particularly because his food dreams in Australia align with the Free to Feed mission. He aims to one day start a business that gives back to the community, by offering cooking training to unemployed people of any background or status.