From the front, Emma’s Torch looks pretty much like any other Brooklyn restaurant: whitewashed brick walls, wide windows, metal cafe chairs, long and narrow communal tables. But behind the scenes, everything is different.
Staffed by refugees learning professional kitchen skills in an accelerated in-restaurant program, the nonprofit restaurant is unlike any other in America.
Started last year with a brunch-only pop-up in Red Hook, Emma’s Torch relocated to a permanent home in Carroll Gardens in May, where it's open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and weekend brunch.
In the kitchen, a cohort of five students hailing from across the globe (Haiti, Vietnam, Syria, Afghanistan, Honduras and beyond) learns restaurant and culinary skills that, in eight weeks, will prepare them to cook in New York City kitchens.
Founder Kerry Brodie had the idea for the concept while working in public policy in Washington D.C.
“I kept thinking about how someone should do this, and my husband finally said that someone should be me,” Brodie recalls.
So she quit her job in May 2016, enrolled in the Institute of Culinary Education and started building a community of supporters, including Rachael Ray and Roland Foods, to get her nonprofit off the ground.
“Food creates conversations and builds bridges between people,” Brodie says of her motivation to pursue Emma’s Torch, named after New York writer — and the Statue of Liberty’s inscription poet — Emma Lazarus.