A Letter From Our Founder

Dear Friends,

I sit here listening to the twinkling of glasses being polished, to students rushing to set up their stations, and to guests walking through the door. I take a moment to breathe in the magic that Emma’s Torch has created in Brooklyn. What a difference a year makes! For Emma’s Torch, 2018 has been filled with growth and evolution, and I am so proud of what our students and staff have achieved.

In May, we opened our full-service restaurant in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and launched our unique 400-hour culinary apprenticeship. Within the first three months of opening, the Emma’s Torch restaurant received recognition from outlets like The New Yorker and Bon Appetit, and was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Greatest Places in the World.” We welcomed thousands of diners to enjoy our students’ dishes, broadening our community and the extended Emma’s Torch family.

But now is not the time to catch our breaths: we are far from finished. In the spring of 2019, we will grow yet again, opening a second location at Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library branch. This new space allows us to lengthen our training program, increase the number of students we graduate each year, and take Emma’s Torch to a whole new level.

As I look at all that 2018 has brought to our organization, I am humbled and inspired by the students we have served. Every student who lived in the shelter system before joining our program has since moved out. We have students who have negotiated raises, advocated new positions, and navigated starting their own businesses.

In my eyes, impact means more than statistics. Impact means a survivor of human trafficking, whose struggles with mental health held her back for fifteen years, finishing the program and beginning a job. Impact means that survivor understanding, for the first time, that she is worthy of a better life, and making plans to pursue bigger dreams. Impact means the look on a young girl’s face as she watches her mom receive a diploma for the first time. This impact inspires us daily.

I am deeply grateful to the generous individuals, foundations, and corporations who have made this impact possible. We look forward to serving New American cuisine inspired by our new American students to you and our neighbors for years to come.

Bon Appetit!

Kerry Brodie


What We Do

Emma’s Torch is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides culinary training and job placement services to refugees, asylees, and survivors of human trafficking. We aim to reimagine how refugees are integrated into society. Through hands-on culinary apprenticeship, tailored mentorship, and job placement services, we prepare our students for sustainable employment in an industry in which their culinary heritages can be celebrated.

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How We Serve

The Emma’s Torch Culinary Apprenticeship provides students with training, mentorship, and resources in order to prepare them for long-term success and economic security.

Over the course of our program, students learn the basic skills necessary to thrive in the American culinary industry. They also gain vital experience by working under the guidance of Culinary Director Alex Harris and his team of educators in our full-service restaurant. This in-depth training prepares them to begin new careers at eateries around the city.

Emma’s Torch graduates leave the program with increased communication and teamwork skills. This positively affects our students’ confidence and their careers.

The Apprenticeship is also a valuable means of income-building. Not only do we help students find culinary roles in which they can thrive, we also equip our students with the skills and confidence that they need to succeed.

Our Graduates

Some of our 2018 graduates

Mazen, Syria

Mazen, Syria

Dmitry, Russia

Dmitry, Russia

Hawa, Ethiopia

Hawa, Ethiopia

Thu, Vietnam

Thu, Vietnam

Shehla, Pakistan

Shehla, Pakistan

Magedda, Venezuela

Magedda, Venezuela

Halimata, Cote d’Ivoire

Halimata, Cote d’Ivoire

Caroline, DRC

Caroline, DRC







Kesnelfils, Haiti

Kesnelfils, Haiti

Our Graduates in the Press

Terricka, Jamaica

Terricka, Jamaica

Midway through the meal, Brodie introduced Terricka Hall, from Jamaica. Her coconut-curry shrimp with red beans and rice, Hall said, were “made with love,” and also with her newfound knife skills. “I didn’t know how to dice, or medium dice,” she said, laughing. Hall is a survivor of human trafficking. Brodie noted that many of the students, particularly the women, seem surprised by the question “What do you want to do?” “They’ve never been asked that before,” she said.

Hall, who was interviewing for a job at a catering company, said that one day she wants to open her own restaurant, Noah’s Ark, “to feed the people who cannot afford food and the people who can afford it. They’re gonna have the same chance to eat fancy stuff.”
— New Yorker magazine, August 6 & 13 2018 Issue

Our Impact

This year has been one of tremendous growth for Emma’s Torch. Not only have we increased the number of students we serve and helped them start meaningful careers, but we have also laid some critical foundations that will allow us to further our impact in the years to come.

Students Served

This year, we enrolled 35 students. Twenty have already graduated and nine are due to graduate in early 2019. Six students were unable to complete the program.

Students’ Growth and Success

Nearly all of our job-seeking graduates have earned positions at revered restaurants like Lafayette, Loring Place, Buttermilk Channel, and Bombay Bread Bar. Many have gone on to receive promotions and accolades from their peers and employers.

For many of our students, our program’s impact extends beyond the workplace. Since graduating from the Culinary Apprenticeship, all of our students who were living in homeless shelters have moved out of them, while others are making plans to bring their spouses and children to the U.S. Some dream of opening restaurants themselves one day.

Foundations for Future Impact

This year, we established the infrastructure for our long-term success, and by extension, for that of our students. We opened a full-service restaurant in the spring and developed a new 400-hour curriculum. Towards the end of the year, we entered into an agreement with Brooklyn Public Library to run their concessions program because it would allow us to further our training and increase the number of students we serve.

The successful launch and execution of our restaurant and our initiatives to standardize and streamline our curriculum promise better training for more students in the years to come. In 2019 alone, we plan to at least double the number of graduates from our Culinary Apprenticeship.


The Emma’s Torch Restaurant

In May 2018, Emma’s Torch opened its first full-service restaurant in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Our new home, complete with decor and fixtures provided by our supporters at Rachael Ray, is now a neighborhood establishment.

Our restaurant is integral to our Culinary Apprenticeship: all students serve as paid line cooks during the second month of their apprenticeship. They also contribute to the menu. Throughout the program, they share traditional dishes from their respective cultures, developing a voice in a language that is both universal and uniquely suited to Brooklyn. These voices speak proudly through dishes such as a spicy shakshuka or a mushroom samboosak.

We love to look around our full dining room and realize that people are sharing a meal and creating memories because of our students.


Emma’s Torch In the Press

World’s Greatest Places 2018
— Time
Best Places to Eat in NYC Right Now
— Thrillist
At Emma’s Torch [...], food offers hope to refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of human trafficking.
— Food & Wine Magazine
The food impresses, independent of the restaurant’s mission.
— Vogue
This restaurant gives refugees a chance at a new life.
— New York Post
“I love the atmosphere because we’re like family,” [Thu] says of the program.
— Bon Appetit
The most thrilling way to eat at Emma’s Torch, though, is at one of its monthly graduation dinners, for which each trainee (there are four per class) makes a dish or two from her home country.
— The New Yorker
On-the-job training, however, can come with drawbacks, namely unpolished service and sloppy food. I didn’t experience that at Emma’s Torch.
— Bloomberg

Events & Catering

Graduation Dinners

Every night at Emma’s Torch is delicious, but once a month, something truly magical happens: our graduation dinners. As their final challenge before graduating, our students take over the menu. They collaborate with a guest chef on a menu that highlights their own culinary identities and the food they want to cook.

These events have sold out since the first one in June 2018, and have featured culinary luminaries like New York Times Wine Editor Eric Asimov, and Chefs Ned Baldwin and Ryan Hardy. Our students each have the opportunity to present their dishes. What is the most common ingredient? Love.


Starting in September, Emma’s Torch was able to take on new catering opportunities. From the MOMA to the Brooklyn Community Foundation Gala, we were thrilled to take our talented team of chefs to new locations to present delicious food. We look forward to expanding this capability in 2019.

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A Growing Team

Enhanced Staffing

In response to our increased number of students, Emma’s Torch welcomed five new full-time staff members in 2018:

Culinary Director

Serves as head chef for our restaurant and curricular leader for the Culinary Apprenticeship. Chef Alex Harris, who joined Emma’s Torch in January 2018, has had transformational impact on how our organization has served students this year.

General Manager

Leads our team of servers, oversees key operational challenges at the restaurant, and ensures that each guest has the best experience possible.

Program Associate

Manages administrative needs for the Culinary Apprenticeship, making sure that every student feels special, heard, and important. The Program Associate ensures that the apprenticeship is both effective and replicable.

Sous Chefs

Work directly with our students under Chef Alex, exposing students to different chefs’ styles and preparing them to walk into new kitchens after graduating.



Strengthened Board of Directors


Emma’s Torch welcomed seven new Board members in 2018, who are indicated by an asterisk below:

  • Melissa Glass (Chair) Retired Investment Banker and Philanthropist

  • Amy Schilit Benarroch (Secretary)* Teacher and Community Organizer

  • Hilary Brandenburg Associate, BlackRock

  • Richard Fields* Managing Director, Allen & Co.

  • Irene Hamburger* Vice President, Blue Hill   

  • Michelle Jewitt (Treasurer)* Partner, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP

  • Aaron Kaplowitz Director, Global NY

  • Pam Krauss (Vice President)* Editorial Consultant; Former Publisher, Penguin Random House

  • Dino Lavorini* Senior Director of Restaurant Ops, USHG

  • Sarah Rosen*  Associate General Counsel, Plated




This year, we built a sustainable and scalable foundation thanks to our new location, staffing structure, and curriculum development. This initial investment will ultimately allow us to have a greater impact in the future.

All of this growth would not have been possible without the trust and dedication of our supporters. Through both in-kind donations and monetary support, we  were able to furnish our new restaurant and grow in a strategic and sustainable way.

2018 Operating Budget

Unaudited financial summary of FY18.

Contributed Income

Individuals / Board






Special Events



Earned Income

Restaurant Revenue

Total Income

Restaurant Staff


Nonprofit Staff




Utilities & Maintenance





Student Stipends 127,000
Accounting, Legal, and other services 60,000
Administrative Expenses 108,000
Total Expenses

Year-End Summary

2018 was a year of significant operational growth at Emma’s Torch. We created our new, long-term home in Brooklyn and built a curricular foundation for great impact in the years to come. We hired more staff, created more menus, met our neighbors, and forged important partnerships. Most importantly, we changed the lives of our students and our community.


Emma’s Torch at BPL

In 2019, Emma’s Torch will partner with Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) to expand our Culinary Apprenticeship program to BPL’s Central Library branch in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

We will operate our satellite cafe in the BPL’s pre-existing restaurant space, which the Library has leased to Emma’s Torch rent-free. The Library welcomes 1 million unique visitors annually, and has 400 employees.

This new space will allow us to accept more students into our program and provide them with additional educational opportunities. The Culinary Apprenticeship will expand to a three-month program, preparing students even more thoroughly for the restaurant industry.


Operational Goals

The Emma’s Torch Board has approved measured growth in 2019 to an approximately $1.6 million annual budget for all operations, including the culinary apprenticeship, the Emma’s Torch Restaurant, and Emma’s Torch at BPL.

We project that our widened exposure through the Brooklyn Public Library partnership will spur an increase in in-kind and individual giving. The BPL cafe will also significantly increase our earned revenue, given its low overhead costs, the rent-free space, and its catering capacity.

We plan to capitalize on our opening at BPL with an aggressive corporate fundraising campaign, seeking partners who can collaborate with us for years to come.


Our Supporters

Emma’s Torch is deeply grateful to the following foundations and corporations for their faith in our students and mission in 2018.


Foundations and Corporations


The Beacon Group

Brooklyn Community Foundation  

Hannah S. and Samuel A. Cohn Memorial Foundation

Horace W Goldsmith Foundation

Good People Fund

HMSHost Foundation

Hyde and Watson Foundation

Jewish Women Foundation of New York

Mizuho USA Foundation

New York Community Trust

Rachael Ray Foundation

Roland Foods

Toast Foundation

UJA Federation New York

WellMet Philanthropy

Whole Foods Market

1010 Wins Small Business Challenge

In-Kind partners



Arlene Getz

Burlap & Barrel

Chef Works

Cherry Bombe Jubilee


David Bowler Wines

Emerils Footwear

Field Blend Selections

Gingko International Ltd.

Gotham Greens

Korin Knives

Lawyers Alliance for NY

Malin + Goetz

MFW Wine Co

Newburg Brewing.


Other Half Brewing

Rachael Ray

Ramona Wines

Restaurant Reason

Roland Foods

Runamok Maple

Sfoglini Pasta



Stop and Shop

Ten Strawberry Street



Two Cool Chix

Vermont Farmstead