Dolma. Kuba. Freshly-baked bread. When it comes to flavour, the women of the Hamilton Community Food Centre’s Intercultural Community Kitchen embrace it all, and they serve it up with love.
This tight-knit group of 20 Kurdish and Middle Eastern women began to form a fun-loving, supportive community at the centre as soon as it opened in Hamilton’s multicultural Rolston neighbourhood in early 2017.
“These women bring tons of positive energy to our kitchen. They’re like family,” says Community Chef Mark Raymond. “I learn incredible things from cooking with them, and I'm inspired to have the chance to learn about their lives. They've been instrumental in getting things going and helping build the program into a great success that fills our space with wonderful colours and delicious flavours and aromas.”
The Intercultural Community Kitchen program creates a space where community members can come together to cook, try out new flavours and ingredients, and learn about each others' languages and cultures, from the Middle East to South Korea.
“The Community Food Centre provides a space for the Kurdish and Arabic community to feel safe and to build community,” said Narmin Mzouri, Food Skills Animator. “Most newcomers are staying at home. Here, they have a place away from home where they can laugh, talk, learn, and exchange.”
Chef Mark grew up down the street from the centre in Rolston, and has seen the neighbourhood go through drastic changes as the local economy suffered. He knows how important it is for families in the area—where 49% of the children age six and younger are living in poverty—to have a space where they can access free healthy food. “We're meeting new people every week and watching exciting ideas come to action. Such a wide variety of people and groups in the community have expressed support, and that gives us so much confidence to keep building.”