Welcome to a column wherein we track down a cook good with an accent and milk them for all their best kept eating secrets.
Ghazwan Al-Sharif—a native of Tikrit, Iraq—describes his kitchen as "a place to play." Born into what he describes as a "foodie family," Al-Sharif's father was a diplomat, so he spent most of his early childhood in the Czech Republic and London. He moved to Iraq at the age of 15, where he eventually ran a restaurant. In 2003, when the U.S. troops came into the country, Al-Sharif was tapped as a translator. Eventually, his people turned on him for taking the job and he was forced to flee the country. It's a long, tragic and complicated story that has been told partially by New America Media here, and more recently by the Chronicle here. Al-Sharif was relocated to the Bay Area by the International Rescue Committe, and at last finds himself home and safe, living in the Tenderloin of San Francisco. He currently works as a PR and Production Manager for Project Open Hand, a job that incudes cheffing, dinner and events organization. Food is still one of Al-Sharif's favorite subjects and he was excited to share the San Francisco bites that bring back good memories of his life in Iraq.