One dinner and one group of locals were all the ingredients needed to change the course of Syrian refugee and chef Nadeem Turkia’s new life in Australia. Mr Turkia was living in Darwin when he visited Geraldton on holiday and was offered an opportunity of a lifetime by a group of community members. Two months ago, he officially made Geraldton his home. “I was supposed to come here for a week holiday, and then I made a dinner for some people, they loved my food and within two days they decided to keep me here and give me an interest-free loan,” Mr Turkia said. “I cancelled my return flight.” Now Mr Turkia has opened a new restaurant introducing Middle Eastern flavours to the Geraldton community. Before Mr Turkia and his Syrian family arrived in Australia in 2016, they were in Jordan seeking refuge. He said growing up there was a different life. “It was hard and challenging just to keep doing day-to-day tasks as a refugee in Jordan,” Mr Turkia said. “Since the minute I stepped into Australia, that changed my life.” Mr Turkia was unable to secure a loan as a refugee, and after a handful of locals tried his home-cooked dinner, they offered him the loan to open the eatery. Laian opened on Thursday, next to the Monsignor Hawes Heritage Centre on Cathedral Avenue, with a breakfast and lunch menu boasting plenty of healthy vegan and gluten-free options. “I’ve been developing this menu for quite a long time, so hopefully people will like it,” Mr Turkia said. Mr Turkia said the trio of dips and falafels were not to be missed, and he was proud to say he cooks them from scratch all with local ingredients. The coffee, however, comes from Melbourne. “I love how healthy it is — I’m a big guy but I never eat junk, and I don’t want to sell my customers unhealthy food,” he said. Mr Turkia has plans to open for dinner down the track. “Later on — when we’re ready in the kitchen — we will open at least three nights a week with a different menu,” he said. Mr Turkia said opening the restaurant was his dream and he wanted to remain as the permanent chef serving up unique dishes. “I told myself I would never work for anyone,” he said.