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Food Brings Life Happiness

Updated: Mar 18

Just four years after arriving in the United States as a refugee from Afghanistan, Chef Hamidullah Noori opened his restaurant, The Mantu, in Richmond.  


A family sitting at a restaurant
Chef Noori and his family at The Mantu

“The Mantu means ‘me and you,’ which connects people,” said Noori. “So, the food is connecting people. Food brings people to the table. Food does not know any boundaries. Food introduces the cultures, introduces the colors of people we have.”  


Before he was a chef and restaurateur, Noori was a young boy with big responsibilities. From the age of nine, he supported both his own family and a neighboring family by working at a local butcher shop—often for as many as 16 hours a day. Whatever he brought home from the butcher shop and anything his mother cooked was shared between both families.  


“For me, food means a lot because back home in Afghanistan we suffered a lot... when the Taliban took over the first time in the 90s. We were struggling to find food. And for me, it was a dream to have a full lunch or dinner or breakfast. But we never had that chance because we were fighting just to survive.” 


Years later, Noori worked for the United States government as a chef for 9 years. Working in opposition to the Taliban was dangerous, and in 2015, Noori and his family were approved for Special Immigrant Visas, granting them refugee status and safety in the United States. When they touched down in Virginia, CCC was waiting.  


“They picked us up from the airport and then brought us to our apartment,” he said, "they already prepared the space for us. Essentially anything you need to live your life and to start resettling your life in the United States, that's where CCC comes and supports you – from A-Z whatever you think is needed.” 


CCC’s resettlement assistance can continue up to five years, even after newcomers become largely independent. After several months in Virginia, Chef Noori and his family were doing well and were adjusting to all the newness when Mrs. Noori became sick and unable to look after their four young children. During her illness, Noori stayed home from work to care for the children. Without that income, there was no way to pay the rent. They turned to CCC for help. 


“I will never forget that time when I was really in need of support. When [CCC] said, “We'll write a check for this month.””  


And he hasn’t forgotten. Since that time, Chef Noori has found numerous ways to give back to CCC and to the community. He sends food to new refugee arrivals staying in hotels and often gives a portion of sales at The Mantu to CCC’s resettlement program.  


“Mantu is connecting me with the community, connecting me with people. It connects me with those who are in need,” said Noori. “I mean, it's a small restaurant, but still, we try our best to serve homeless families. We serve people who still live in Afghanistan who don't have supporters—especially women and children—through this restaurant. Food brings life happiness.” 

Written by Sarah Beam, CCC Development Specialist


Visit the Mantu and try some of Chef Noori's food.

The Mantu logo
The Mantu

The Mantu

 10 S. Thompson St.

Richmond, VA 23221

Second location opening in Short Pump soon.

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