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A Restaurant in New York Makes Dishes From Refugees’ Native Countries

A restaurant in New York City cooks cuisine from refugees’ home countries.

Emma’s Torch is a non-profit restaurant that teaches communication and culinary skill to asylum seekers, refugees, and the survivors of trafficking.

The menu at Emma’s Torch is self-defined as “New American cuisine–prepared by our new American students.”

Hannah Goldfield, a New York food critic, praised the “perfect shakshuka” the restaraunt serves.  Other dishes include their infamous black0eyed pea hummus, salmon cakes, and couscous.

Many countries are represented in the restaurant’s serving choices.  There are dishes from Iraq, Mali, Honduras, China, and many more.

Another Emma’s Torch will open this year at the Brooklyn Public Library.

The name of the restaurant is titled for the poet, Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem on the Statue of Liberty.  The poem, which is often repeated by immigration activists, says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Kerry Brodie, the founder of Emma’s Torch, says, “There is an incredible amount of value of welcoming in refugees…and it benefits us from an economic perspective, it benefits us in terms of flavors and cuisine.”

The restaurant hosts a paid apprenticeship where trainees obtain the skills to prepare food, partake in mock interviews, and study English.  Each trainee receives 400 hours of culinary training and is paid an hourly wage of $15.  All of the graduates of the apprenticeship in 2017 were employed in the culinary field after the apprenticeship ended.

Brodie explains that during the apprenticeship, “we talk about what they want for their careers, what they think is going to benefit them long term and what we can do to support them…so that’s why by the time they graduate, it’s still an intimidating process, but they know that they have us in their corner.”

One of the apprentices, a refugee woman from Iraq who fled persecution due to her husband’s career as a professor, says, “It is very hard to find Iraqi food here…I depend on everything myself.”

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