South African New-Yorker is he

Emma’s Torch Classroom Cafe for Refugees – Kerry Brodie

South African New-Yorker is helping refugees learn to cook and find employment

The paid internship empowers immigrants and keeps the American Dream alive

South African New-Yorker is he

Emma’s Torch Classroom Cafe for Refugees – Kerry Brodie

As the USA grapples with its identity following recent political turmoil, life for immigrants and refugees has certainly taken on an unwelcome dimension.

Many face distrust, hatred, and obstacles to find the work that they desperately need in order to provide for their families. However, thanks to one woman with South African heritage, there could well be light at the end of the tunnel.

Refugees in America

Kerry Brodie has opened up Emma’s Torch Classroom Café, which offers an eight-week training course to would-be chefs of refugee status: The paid internship will see participants earn $15 an hour, but it isn’t just about the money…

Brodie believes it sends a powerful message to a community that is usually demonised or scapegoated by society, and gives her trainees a sense of belonging:

“Telling our students, “You’re welcome and we want you here… and what you bring to the table matters,” was amazing. I didn’t expect it to have that type of impact.

“Telling people “Hey, the food that you make, the arepas that your grandmother taught you how to make in Venezuela, we want to eat them,” makes somebody’s face light up.

“I hope that the voices saying that refugees matter, that they are welcome, and that they make our country great are helping to uplift the community that we serve.”

Watch: This SA expat has got a small Irish village singing ‘Shosholoza’

Successful South Africans abroad

The curriculum, designed in consultation with the Chef’s Council, ensures that the students master all of the critical skills needed to work in a restaurant kitchen.

Brodie’s South African roots stretch to Port Elizabeth, where her Grandparents and Father originate from. Though she herself was born in Maryland, USA, Kerry believes there is an undoubted SA influence in her work.

She claims her work ethic is definitely part of her African heritage, and says both her Grandma’s were a huge influence on her culinary expertise.

  •  Emma’s Torch Classroom Cafe is a six-month pop-up in the now ‘vibey’ main Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s named after revolutionary poet Emma Lazarus, whose words “Give me your tired, your poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free” are enscribed on the Statue of Liberty