This Cafe Is Changing Refugees’ Lives

Posted by Emma Brownstein
(@Emma Brownstein)

Emma’s Torch

Not only does Emma’s Torch in Red Hook, Brooklyn have a delicious brunch menu featuring classics like avocado toast and belgian waffles, but they are changing the lives of handfuls of refugees, asylees and survivors of human trafficking — also known as their students.

“For refugees coming to America, one of the hardest parts of the transition can be finding a new job. A job is important for more than just a paycheck. It is a chance to meet new people, practice language skills, and find a sense of fulfillment and self-worth after what can be a jarring and disorienting move,” the cafe states on their website.

emmas torch food
Photo by: @emmastorchfood on Instagram

Missions and Methods

Named after Emma Lazarus, the writer whose poetry is engraved on the Statue of Liberty, Emma’s Torch also identifies as a classroom. Along with lessons in culinary arts, they also teach their students English and other skills meant to ease the adjustment to The U.S. They offer an eight week, paid curriculum, real-life experience with customers on weekends, and a support system for the students in their future job search endeavors, connecting them with some of the most well-renowned restaurants in the city.

emmas torch application
Photo by: @emmastorchfood on Instagram

The restaurant opened in the midst of the greatest refugee crisis the world has faced since World War Two. Inspired by President Obama’s 2012 call to action, Founder Kerry Brodie created Emma’s Torch to help refugees recreate their lives in a new community. She acknowledges that highly capable individuals often struggle to find and hold even a minimum wage job due to language barrier, cultural difference, and lack of support.

“We try and help our students secure jobs where they are paid a fair living wage, and are set up for success. Part of our training is leadership in the kitchen. We want our students to…feel confident asking for more responsibility, and higher wages,” Brodie said.

While incredibly supportive, Emma’s Torch still expects the highest level of culinary performance from their students. About their customers, Brodie said “Though we tell them what’s going on, we don’t want them to ever feel like: ‘Oh, I did a good deed by eating here.’ We want them to say, ‘I had a delicious meal that was really high quality.‘”

emmas torch
Photo by: @emmastorchfood on Instagram

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