MONTREAL -- A private chef who moved to Canada from Iran five years ago is spreading a message of peace, love and kindness through Persian food.

“I knew how to cook mostly from my family, especially my grandma and my mom because they were very good cooks,” said Atena Barforoushi.

That food acts as a connection to her homeland while living in her new country.

“The situation is very tough over there, especially for young people. They don’t have much hope about their future,” she said. “As a new immigrant, whenever I was making new friends I was inviting them at some point to my home and we had beautiful memories together around the table.”

Those new friends encouraged Barforoushi to turn her passion for cooking into a career.  As a private chef, she cooks for families and groups of all sizes and also gives classes. For all her clients, she hopes to impart some wisdom about Iran.

“What is different for them and interesting is I talk about our culture,” she said. “I feel I connect them to my place of birth and my country and origin. I see they are connecting with what they are eating and that makes me happy.”

With tensions between the United States and Iran escalating and the tragic shooting down of a Ukrainian Airlines plane claiming the lives of 176 people, many of whom lived in Canada, Barforoushi said bringing people together is more important than ever.

“It’s hard for all Iranians to have a smile on their face,” she said. “We are just in shock and mourning.”

Five of the passengers on the plane were from Barforoushi’s hometown.

“Please, if you know any Iranian, at your work, your neighbour, anywhere, please be aware they are not feeling okay,” she said. “Please take care of them.”

Barforoushi said she hopes to expand her business to bring her message of love to more Montrealers. Part of that dream is hosting her own show with a mixture of cooking and interviewing guests who are making a difference in the world through kindness.

She is also hoping to find collaborators who will help her to cook a large community meal once a month. Anyone with a venue to offer can contact her through her Facebook page. 

“The more and more I live outside my country the more I feel like we are all the same,” she said. “We are sharing humanity and kindness and love, those are international languages.”