Fusion Kitchen is a start-up social venture that helps recent immigrant women build their self-confidence, develop their transferable skill, and gain Canadian work experience teaching cooking classes focused on dishes specific to their cultures. Our venture is a stepping stone for these women to gain employment in the Canadian workforce.
Since 2006, Canada has been a welcoming an average of 250,000 new immigrants each year. However, quite commonly, many of these individuals are met with the social challenges and difficulties of transitioning into a new culture, while struggling to secure employment in the workforce. More specifically within B.C and amongst immigrant women, about 40% of the total immigrant population in Vancouver is women aged 15 years and over. The unemployment rate for immigrant women is approximately 8%, while recent arrivals face an even higher rate of close to 15%. There are several reasons behind these numbers ranging from language barriers to a lack of Canadian credentials and work experience to a lack of jobs. However, Fusion Kitchen looks to address the lack of Canadian work experience, and employ these women through meaningful job opportunities.
Fusion Kitchen uses cooking classes as a platform for the women to build their self-confidence, develop transferable skill sets, and gain Canadian work experience.
Through partnerships with immigrant and immigrant-affiliated organizations, in addition to speaking with local community centres, churches, and schools, we individually interact and engage with the women beforehand. Once onboard as a teacher, they are given one month of training on how to organize and run a cooking class along with developing focused skill sets such as communication and leadership. For the following six months, the training program will highlight specific skills each month applicable to teaching a cook class and to broader employment opportunities.
As a teacher, the women run a 3-hour cultural cooking experience to the public featuring a tutorial and demonstration of 4-5 dishes, hands-on cooking in smaller groups, and the opportunity to enjoy meal with the class. It is an opportunity for the women to share the passion for her culture and love for food and cooking with others, while the students are able to explore the world's cuisines without leaving their "mother's" kitchen. Food is the ultimate connector - bridging gaps and infusing cultures together.
Working with our first teacher, Shahnaz, for Fusion Kitchen's first two classes, the team has learned how the opportunity has impacted her.
Coming to Canada, the biggest culture shock to Shahnaz was the language barrier she faced. Wanting to find a job, she reached out to DIVERSEcity to assist in building her resume and cover letter, and transitioned to the Immigrant Services Society of B.C to learn more about the Canadian job search process, what qualifications an employer looked for, and to gain further certification. Thus far, the biggest challenge she is finding in her search for employment is the fact that she does not have Canadian credentials. With over 25 years of educational experience in Pakistan, it is astonishing that she has been unable to secure a job.
What attracted Shahnaz to Fusion Kitchen was the fact that she would be using her hobby of cooking and her passion for food as a means to gain work experience and connect with the Canadian community. The team learned that she loved teaching the two classes and that they really helped her in terms of building her self-confidence. She enjoyed interacting with the people in the class, and enjoyed the positive and energetic environment.
The biggest challenge the Fusion Kitchen team faces is finding the ideal kitchen venue with multiple cooking stations, in addition to raising awareness that this type of cooking class exists. There are many cooking school in the Lower Mainland which offer classes on a variety of different types of foods taught by a professional chef. For individuals that want to learn from an "expert" of the culture, and find out tips, tricks, and pieces of information of the ingredients, dishes, and culture - Fusion Kitchen offers an experience that cannot be matched.