April 24, 2019
While volunteering at a Washington, D.C. homeless shelter a few years ago, Kerry Brodie witnessed how food can facilitate conversations among diverse groups of people. “If I have one background, someone else a different one, but we have this shared experience of cooking with our mothers and grandmothers, there’s got to be something else we can do to propel change,” Kerry said. With the idea to help those from disenfranchised communities find jobs and feel empowered doing so, she quit her job in public policy, moved to New York, and enrolled in culinary school.
A month after graduating, Kerry founded Emma’s Torch, first as a pop-up in Red Hook to now a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Carroll Gardens, where it’s been for about a year. The nonprofit, named after Emma Lazarus whose poem is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, serves as a culinary school for refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of trafficking. Applicants who are accepted to the 12-week paid program not only learn how to cook in a high-pressure setting but also work on English language skills and career planning. 6sqft recently sat down with Kerry at Emma's Torch ahead of a graduation dinner, a night where the students take over the menu and "cook from the heart." Ahead, learn more about the mission of Emma's Torch, the challenges of operating as a nonprofit, and Kerry's plan to expand beyond New York City.
See the space and meet the founder of Emma's Torch