NPR picked up on this story by WNYC spotlighting Emma's Torch for World Refugee Day. You can listen to the segment at 4:27 of the podcast here, where our Founder Kerry and one of our students Terricka share about Emma's Torch.
Jun 20, 2018 · by Matt Katz
This is not a story about the politics of immigration.
This is not a story about walls or detained children, DACA or TPS, green cards or immigration courts.
This is a story about food.
Although the Trump Administration views refugees as security risks, and despite the fact that they are being denied entry to the United States in historic numbers, delicious counter-narratives are emerging throughout the country and particularly in the New York area. Americans are breaking bread with refugees in homes, offices and restaurants — devouring food prepared with ancient recipes from the old country and techniques taught by grandma. In the process, new financial, emotional and social opportunities are opening up for refugees.
[These stories] are a modern version of how foreigners and natives have interacted for centuries. When you arrive in a new land, you share a meal. And when something tastes great, when something is spicy or sweet or sour, the need for a common language fades as a more universal connection is found.
These days, the food is being prepared in New York City-area kitchens by victims of persecution from abroad. They include a catering company in Long Island City where all the food comes from refugees' cookbooks, and a new nonprofit restaurant in Brooklyn where all the food is made by refugees and victims of human trafficking.
Last month in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, Kerry Brodie opened Emma's Torch, a nonprofit restaurant named for Emma Lazarus, whose poem about "huddled masses yearning to be free" adorns the Statue of Liberty. Everything here is cooked by refugees, asylees and victims of human trafficking as part of an intensive eight-week culinary training class held right at the restaurant.
At Emma's Torch, a new restaurant in Brooklyn, refugees and victims of human trafficking prepare all the food.
Brodie's work is infused with her own experience baking milchika cinnamon buns with her South African Jewish family. "It's those memories of cooking with my mother that really inspire me," she said. "And that's not that different than the memories that she has of cooking with her mother in South Africa or the memories of somebody cooking with their grandmothers in Aleppo."