Tasting Table: NYC's New Nonprofit Restaurant Is Run by Refugees

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Refugees who find themselves in a new country face a number of challenges, whether it’s navigating language barriers, finding a new community to call home or just landing a job.
— Andrew Bui, Tasting Table

NYC's New Nonprofit Restaurant Is Run by Refugees

Emma's Torch provides employees with culinary training and language classes for jobs in the restaurant industry

5/17/18  By Andrew Bui

Photos: Giada Randaccio Skouras Sweeny

Refugees who find themselves in a new country face a number of challenges, whether it's navigating language barriers, finding a new community to call home or just landing a job. But that's exactly where Emma's Torch, a restaurant that opened this week in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, comes in. 

The nonprofit social enterprise (named after Emma Lazarus, the poet whose words are inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty) doubles as a place where refugees can enroll in a paid, two-month development program. During their time at Emma's Torch, they'll receive culinary training, take ESL classes and undergo interview preparation, so they can eventually find full-time jobs in the restaurant industry. 

Founder Kerry Brodie came up with the idea after volunteering at a homeless shelter. "I became intrigued by the idea of using food to do more than feed people," she tells Eater. "Maybe we could use food to nourish and empower them." She's joined by culinary director Alexander Harris, whose career includes experience at Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group and who's behind the globally inspired menu that's described as "new American cuisine—prepared by our new American students." Stop by for dinner or weekend brunch for plates of eggplant caviar with crumbled feta, a shawarma-spiced lamb shank with a mint-flecked lima bean ragout and pistachio bread pudding.  

According to the Emma's Torch website, 100 percent of its graduates have found full-time jobs after completing the program, giving them opportunities to move out of homeless shelters and start making plans to bring other family members to the U.S., too.