Culinary Job Training for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Kerry Brodie, Founder and Executive Director of Emma's Torch, a restaurant and culinary school that provides on the job training to refugees, survivors of human trafficking and individuals seeking asylum.
"We're pleased to welcome Kerry Brodie who is founder and executive director of an organization called Emma's Torch. How are you doing? I'm doing well, thank you for having me today. Our pleasure. How would you describe Emma's Torch? So, Emma's torch is a nonprofit restaurant. We provide culinary training and job placement services to refugees. Really, what we're about is empowering refugees to begin their own culinary careers upon graduating from our program. Where did you get this idea and when? I used to work in public policy, which is a wonderful place to be working, but I am a very impatient person. And so I found that what was meaningful for me wasn't the policy work, but were those times where I was volunteering at a local homeless shelter on my way to work, and had the opportunity to talk to people about food, about their memories surrounding food, and just kind of had this idea that we could be doing more within food to really drive social change. And so I had this idea for quite a while and I thought someone else should do it and eventually my husband I guess, got sick of hearing me complain about it and said, you know, "Why not you?" And the rest is history. Was your husband involved and pushed you? He did push me. He's always been very encouraging and supportive. So here's the thing... I'm curious. As I was reading about your organization, I'm thinking how exactly does this work? How does it work? So the way it works is that our culinary students come into our program... Based in Brooklyn? Based in Brooklyn. We're in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn right now and our students join us... they begin on day one, learning those basics, the fundamentals... We're have photos while you're talking about it, so go ahead. Great. Perfect. Oh, there they are. Go ahead. Our students start with us they come on day one, really excited, and they're learning those basics. How do you chop an onion? How do you hold a knife? They don't know anything? Nothing from a commercial kitchen standpoint. Okay. We're really looking for people who are passionate about food, but don't necessarily have the experience of working in a restaurant. Okay. And when they come in, everything that they touch, everything that they work on ends up on our menus. So in many ways, when our guests come in at the end of the day, they're eating our students' homework and it just so happens to be totally delicious. Do they know that? They do. We make sure that our guests know what the experience is about, because what we're offering people..."