Posts Tagged ‘food business’


Photos: Bakers Against Racism
Both chefs and home bakers are making and selling desserts, then donating profits to a group of their choice that supports black people in their community.

It’s been interesting to see how many different kinds of food businesses have been on the front lines helping out in difficult times. After all, everyone has to eat, and when they buy food, they’re often open to doing good simultaneously.

Whether it’s a nonprofit raising funds to keep restaurant workers employed feeding healthcare workers (OffTheirPlate) or bakers taking a stand against racism (@BakersAgainstRacism), there have been quite a few spontaneous efforts taking off.

Teddy Amenabar reported recently at the Washington Post, “Three D.C. pastry chefs have launched an effort that’s become an international bake sale raising money for nonprofit community groups working against racism.

“Through Bakers Against Racism, professional chefs and home bakers are making and selling desserts, then donating profits to a group of their choice that supports black people in their community. The project was launched the first week in June and has more than 3,000 bakers in more than 200 cities in 16 countries.

“On the first day they put the word out on social media, 100 chefs signed up. … Days later, there were more than 1,000 participating chefs.

” ‘After that, it just snowballed out of control,’ said Paola Velez, executive pastry chef at Kith/Kin on the Wharf, who with two other D.C. chefs started what might be the world’s biggest bake sale.

“It works like this: Bakers contact the group on its website to join in the bake sale. Bakers Against Racism then sends participants instructions on starting and precautions to take during the pandemic. Each baker is expected to make a minimum of 150 pastries or other goodies and send a majority of the proceeds to an organization that promotes social justice in their community. Once all the baked goods are sold, bakers will record on the website how much they’ve raised.


“Bakers are sending donations to local chapters of Black Lives Matter, nearby nonprofits and organizations that support communities of color.

“Raisa Aziz, a home baker who lives in Northeast Washington, is preparing to make 250 almond shortbread cookies at home and donate the proceeds to the Okra Project — which provides home-cooked meals for black transgender people — as well as the Loveland Foundation, which helps black women and girls seeking therapy. …

“The idea for the project came in late May after Willa Pelini, a pastry chef who works at Emilie’s on Capitol Hill, saw the success Velez had with a pop-up Dominican doughnut shop at Union Market in March called Doña Dona. Velez donated a portion of her proceeds to a group that provides legal counsel for immigrants in the D.C. area.

“Pelini messaged Velez about possibly teaming up to raise money for Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. …

“Velez created a Google Docs folder with information to share with any pastry chef or home baker who wanted to be involved. She called up Rob Rubba, the chef and a partner at the not-yet-open Oyster Oyster in Shaw who has a background in graphic design, to create a logo. After a few days of planning, the three pastry chefs launched their idea. …

‘It takes zero dollars to start something like this. I used Google Forms, you know?’ Velez said.

“The team’s Instagram account for the project has more than 28,000 followers, but chapters also are popping up in Berlin, Kansas City, New York, Paris and San Francisco to help organize the effort. Velez said people on five continents are participating.

“Rachel Anderson, a pastry chef in Saint Paul, Minn., learned about the project a few days ago on Instagram from other women in the restaurant industry. … She is using donated rhubarb from a local nonprofit to make and sell about 100 rhubarb crisp pies through a coffee shop with locations around the Twin Cities….

“All proceeds from the rhubarb pies are going to Appetite for Change, a nonprofit that grows and makes food, distributes meals and offers job training in North Minneapolis. Anderson said the bakery has raised about $2,000.” More here.

Check out some yummy photos on Instagram, @bakersagainstracism.


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Photo: Julie Van Rosendaal
EthniCity chef and kitchen manager Ajoy Sehgal helps immigrants to Canada as they acclimate to a new land and develop food and hospitality-industry skills.

I’ve written before about how immigrants often start their own businesses, especially food businesses. And I’ve also blogged on nonprofit organizations that use a food business to acclimate refugees to US job expectations and teach marketable skills. (Beautiful Day, “Granola on a Mission,” is a favorite.)

Today I have a story about the same sort of thing going on in Canada — and how great it’s been for both immigrants and customers.

Julie Van Rosendaal reports at CBC News, “Sharing a meal remains one of the best ways to get to know someone, and to learn more about different cultures and backgrounds.

EthniCity catering, a non-profit social enterprise run by Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers, taps into the culinary knowledge of new Canadians, turning their cooking skills into a business, while helping prepare them to work in the food and hospitality industry.

” ‘It’s training for us also,’ says chef and kitchen manager Ajoy Sehgal, who worked in kitchens around the world, including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dubai and throughout the Middle East, before coming to Calgary. ‘They may not be chefs, but they bring expertise about their cuisine. We hope they take something in return.’

“Founded in 1997 as a Collective Kitchen, EthniCity Catering began as a peer support group for women in a church basement and has grown into a full commercial kitchen, providing work experience and training to immigrants during their transition to Canada. …

“Each course runs for 10 weeks with a group of 16 students, who learn in the classroom as well as in the kitchen and on location at catering jobs, under the wing of Sehgal. The group generated $216,000 last year, with profits reinvested into the program. …

“The Centre for Newcomers serves over 10,000 new Canadians each year. With a staff of 130 in their northeast office and students and visitors often in the building for classes and other events, the caterers have a built-in customer base for morning coffee and pastries and unique lunch offerings. …

“EthniCity caters groups of up to 500, and offers their homemade appetizers — pakoras, fatayer, spring rolls, samosas, satay and the like — for customers to bake themselves at home.

“The menu is inspired by cuisines from around the world — the regular menu includes chickpea chaat and bahjis, Philippine pancit noodles, Thai green curry, Indian korma, Arabic mujaddara, Greek moussaka and Russian stroganoff. New dishes are regularly added, and they create custom menus. …

” ‘We’re trying to give them exposure to as much as possible,’ says Sehgal.” More here.

That list is making me hungry. And I’m remembering one of the things I loved about the years we lived near Rochester, New York — the annual international food festival held outside the museum. If I was lucky, my husband would babysit, while I walked around in a happy haze, tasting everything. Mmm.

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You know how once you become aware of a thing, you see it everywhere? That’s what I’ve been experiencing since I learned about how the Providence Granola Project trains refugees on the ins and outs of a food business, acclimating them to the US work culture and helping them develop concrete skills.

Now every few days I seem to read about another food business focused on hiring refugees. Autumn Spanne wrote recently for the Guardian about one in New York that hires refugees who have cooked for large groups (including large families).

“When Manal Kahi arrived in New York from Lebanon two years ago, to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, she longed for authentic hummus, but couldn’t find a restaurant or supermarket that came close to her expectations. So she started making her own, based on a recipe from her Syrian grandmother.

“The recipe was a hit with her friends, and it occurred to Kahi that there might be a successful business in it. The idea also dovetailed with her growing concern about the Syrian refugee crisis. Since the beginning of 2013, the number of Syrian refugees registered worldwide by the United Nations has grown from half a million to more than 5.5 million. …

“Kahi sought a way to help. She decided to start a social enterprise designed to help refugees from all over the world get established in their new country and provide New Yorkers a positive entry point for interacting with the city’s refugee community. Kahi’s efforts put the spotlight on the role business has to play in the refugee crisis, and whether there’s a need for new approaches to help recently arriving refugees integrate and become self-sustaining.”

In January, “Kahi and her brother launched Eat Offbeat, a for-profit meal delivery startup that employs recently resettled refugees from around the world as chefs who prepare traditional dishes from their countries of origin. The main prerequisite is that they enjoy cooking and have had experience cooking for groups – even if that just means extended family. …

“The goal, said Kahi, is twofold: help refugees get a foothold in the US, and ‘change the narrative around refugees.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Eva Cruz/Eat Offbeat  
Potato kibbeh is one of the dishes on the Eat Offbeat menu.

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Photo: Mary MacDonald/Providence Business News
A rehabilitation project recently turned the old Mechanical Fabric Company mill in Providence’s West End into a live-work space for culinary entrepreneurs.
Providence can be a good place for starting a food business, partly because Johnson & Wales turns out so many good cooks, partly because the cost of a restaurant liquor license is much less than in many other cities.

And in recent years, the arrival of food incubators like Hope & Main in nearby Warren have provided a way for food entrepreneurs to get up and running without going deep into debt.

Recently, Providence Journal reporter John Hill wrote about a new food incubator, combined with living space, going into the old Mechanical Fabric Co. mill in Providence’s West End.

“In its 125 years,” writes Hill, “the old brick factory at 55 Cromwell St. has made bicycle tires, electronic components and jewelry. Now it’s getting ready to make dinner.

“The interior of the 1891 building, once filled by the clatter and thrum of steam-powered, belt-driven machines, is being gutted and rebuilt as the new home of two commercial kitchens, restaurant space and 40 efficiency apartments for young food-industry entrepreneurs.

“Federico Manaigo, whose Cromwell Ventures LLC owns the building, said the conversion is aimed at capitalizing on Providence’s reputation as a restaurant mecca. When finished, he said, the factory will be home to recent college graduates considering the restaurant business, either as chefs or owners. …

“Manaigo wants to see if he can duplicate the success of Hot Bread Kitchen, an incubator program in East Harlem in New York City. That program, without apartments, rents space to people with small ethnic food businesses who want to grow into full-fledged commercial operations. It also provides training programs and rents space to start-ups that grow from those efforts.

“The idea is to give promising food-business grads a way to stay in Providence, he said, where they can hone their skills and, when they’re ready to open a restaurant, bakery or catering company, do it in Rhode Island and hire Rhode Islanders. …

“Manaigo said he wants to see if the project can tap into sources of culinary inspiration beyond the colleges. The East Harlem incubator found success by recruiting immigrants, especially women, from the neighborhood, persuading them to share their recipes from home and start small bakeries selling their food. The West End has Middle Eastern, Asian and Central and South American restaurants in its storefronts, a sign of a diverse ethnic population Manaigo said he hopes the kitchen can work with.”

Mayor Jorge Elorza has said he likes that the project offers “a way for the city to use the colleges in the area as sources of potential new business owners and play off the restaurant business in a way that could make it even bigger in the future.

” ‘The whole food scene is a strategic strength for the city,’ he said. ‘This fits squarely within that.’ ” More here.

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