Emma’s Torch Graduates Leave the Nest, Learn to Fly

Introducing...the first graduates from our Carroll Gardens location! This cohort trained at Emma’s Torch for eight weeks under the direction of Chef Alex Harris. They worked the line for both brunch and dinner. Some have started working at New York City’s finest restaurants, while others are in the process of interviewing for jobs.

On June 7th, we held a Grand Opening - Graduation celebration in our new restaurant space. Each member of the cohort presented their own dishes at the event. The dishes were designed to serve a crowd. The students drew on knowledge they acquired as chefs, yet infused the dishes with their own personalities and tastes.

Meet Mazen, Magedda, Shehla and Dmitrii and hear the inspiration behind their food.

Mazen, Assorted HorS D'oeuvres

I chose dishes that speak about me.
— Mazen

Mazen, from Syria, created the Falafel, Babaghanouj, Hummus, Duo of Labne and Stuffed Grape Leaves pictured above.

Mazen owned a restaurant in his Syrian hometown before he came to the United States. He spent some time working in Middle Eastern restaurants in NYC. Mazen dreamed of learning culinary skills in a proper program. His sister applied to Emma’s Torch on his behalf in secret.

When asked how he made these appetizers, Mazen said simply, “I make it the way we make it back home.” The grape leaves were rolled fresh, dry chickpeas soaked the night before, and the Duo of Labne yogurt strained by hand. It was a labor of love.

Magedda, Insalata de Mama

If you return to the kitchen, you return to love.
— Magedda

Magedda, from Venezuela, created the Insalata de Mama with arepas, mango, papaya, radish, cucumber, lime and mint.

In Venezuela, Magedda was an insurance broker and worked with pastry for fun on the side. The artful integration of fruits and vegetables in this salad follow Magedda’s longtime effort to get her daughters to eat vegetables.

Magedda stresses the importance of traditional Venezuelan ingredients like merey (cashews) in the salad, or harina pan (white corn meal) in the arepas. She incorporates her own healthy twist by adding chia seeds, flax seeds and sesame seeds to the arepas because these are ingredients that “work in the body.”

Shehla, Chapli Kebab Masala

Chapli Kebab Masala is a home country food.
— Shehla

Shehla, from Pakistan, created the Chapli Kebab Masala pictured above. She often makes this dish for her four children, who love spicy food. Shehla joined Emma’s Torch to gain formal culinary training and hone her English skills.

Combine spice and flavor components like cilantro, spring onion and pomegranate seeds with tender chicken thigh and you get the Chapli Kebab Masala, a dish that leaves fire on your tongue. Shehla paired this dish with a yogurt sauce to complement the spicy kick.

Dmitrii, Honey-Ginger Bread & Vatrushka

I have a dream to open some family restaurant, I think like [Emma’s Torch]. It would be just like second home for myself.
— Dmitrii

Dmitrii, from Russia, created the Pryaniki, or Honey-Ginger Bread, and Vatrushka, a sweet cheese pie, pictured above. Dmitrii to the U.S. with his husband to flee persecution of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Vatrushka is easy to remember,” said Dmitrii as he stood up to introduce his dish, “My babushka teaches me how to make Vatrushka.”

The closest translation of Pryaniki to English is honey-gingerbread, named this way for its spice components. Though the traditional Russian dish does not contain ginger, Dmitrii added ginger-infused maple syrup and the dish now rings true to its English name.

The cohort & our Founder Kerry, General Manager Kim, and Culinary Director Alex.

The cohort & our Founder Kerry, General Manager Kim, and Culinary Director Alex.

We will miss our graduates in the Emma’s Torch kitchen, but we are sure they will be back to visit! Stay tuned for updates on their future plans.