Emma's Torch

Emma's Torch

Photo: Courtesy of Giada Randaccio Skouras Sweeny

Of the many problems that plague refugees seeking asylum in America, finding a job is chief among them. Language barriers, a lack of connections and, often times, unfair biases of employers can make it extremely difficult for immigrants to easily gain employment in the country.

Fortunately, Emma’s Torch has been helping empower and employ refugees, asylees and survivors of human trafficking since 2016. Named for historic immigrant advocate Emma Lazarus, the nonprofit eatery provides culinary training, ESL classes and interview prep to help students enter and thrive in the food industry. Along with these valuable employment skills, they are also given a chance to meet new people, join a community, and feel fulfilled.

“In 2017, we had a pop-up in Red Hook for months. We offered a 24 hour per week training program, and were open for brunch on weekends,” explained founder Kerry Brodie. “Now we operate two food services establishments, and 40 hours of training per week.”

Their primary location in Carrol Gardens serves as a training ground during the day and a restaurant at night, allowing for real-world food service experience. Their rotating seasonal menu features “new American cuisine—prepared by our new American students” and incorporates spices, dishes and techniques from their home countries. They also recently opened a café at the Brooklyn Public Library’s central location, which lets students to learn barista and café culinary skills.

“This has allowed us to expand not only the number of students we can serve, but also the level of education we can offer them in and out of the kitchen,” Brodie said.

 The program is free to students and pays $15 an hour. Almost all of its graduates have gone on to work on notable restaurants around the city, including Buttermilk Channel, Houseman and Empellón.

Those looking to support the nonprofit can stop by either establishment for a meal, or even rent out the Carrol Gardens space for events. They also offer catering services and info for employers looking to hire graduates.

More about Emma’s Torch can be found on their website.

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