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The story of Ammi’s Kitchen, Sheffield
Ammi’s Kitchen was set up to celebrate the national cuisine and cooking skills of ethnic minority women in Nether Edge, Sheffield. We spoke to Janine Dos Remedios about how it’s given the chefs that work there new-found confidence and skills to feed a community and find employment:
“We got the funding for Ammi’s Kitchen in lockdown so couldn’t get started straight away on our original idea of a fortnightly takeaway meal to reheat at home. We bridged the gap by offering recipe packs, which included the ingredients to cook one of the lady’s recipes at home. There was a video to follow too, they went down well.
“We opened the kitchen in 2021. It’s part of Family Voice, a similar community organisation that works in Nether Edge supporting socially isolated minority ethnic women, often with English as a second language.
“We have worked in this community for over 6 years and built strong relationships with the ladies that worked there. We asked them what they wanted and needed, and recognised a similar theme: they wanted to find a job.”
A lot of the women have been in the home for a long time
“They don’t have the confidence to go out and get a job. One of the ladies said they’d like to work in a kitchen. We looked at how we could make that happen, how to support them in training and build their confidence to find employment. So we applied for some funding to pilot the takeaway, and were successful in receiving the grant. We then went on to design a Level 1 Food safety and hygiene class for the women to attend and then worked with the women to design the best way to sell their food to the local community.
“They are all really excellent, highly skilled cooks, making delicious food at home.”
“A lot of the chefs at restaurants and takeaways in the area are men. These women cook daily for their families and friends, they have great knowledge of food and depth of flavour, with recipes and skills that have been passed on from their mothers for generations.
“Ammi’s Kitchen means they can now share that incredible food with the community. They take part in level one food safety and hygiene. It teaches them food rules to follow and safety in a working kitchen.
“It builds up their knowledge, which they can hopefully use as a springboard to find another job.”
Ammi means ‘mother’ in Punjabi
For many of the women at Ammi’s Kitchen this could be their first job
“Or they may have not worked for years as they’ve been looking after their families. We currently employ 10 women. Working here gives them new-found confidence, we encourage a high staff turnover! We can only employ the women a few hours a fortnight, we encourage them to look for other work that is full time.
“We offer a fortnightly takeaway on a Friday, which you can pre-order and pick up. It is a set meal of a certain cuisine such as Punjabi, Iraqi, Nepalese or Sri Lankan. The food is prepared fresh on the day and it’s ready to reheat at home. We offer a reduced price for people that bring their own tupperware to reduce packaging and encourage people to use what they already have. People bring in their tupperware and we fill it for them with delicious food to reheat at home. We have a packaged option of a paper container and compostable lid that’s better for the environment.
“On alternate Fridays, we run a community lunch at Common Ground, open to everyone. It’s about being in the space together. It’s going well so far, it started off quiet, but we had 40 people at the last one. We get a real mix of people. It’s also a Community Warm Welcoming Space. You can pay as you feel, so anyone receiving benefits can eat for free. We try to make it as accessible as possible.
“Fortnightly on a Wednesday, we do an Ammi’s Kitchen pop-up at Union Street in the city centre. It gives the ladies more experience of cooking and serving food in a different space, building up their work skills.”
“All the dishes are vegetarian, and mostly vegan. We’ll have a yoghurt chutney sometimes, for example, but we also offer a vegan chutney. When they pass their level 1 cooking course, the women can cook their cuisine.
“We get as much input from them about what they want to cook, it’s all their recipes. It’s amazing food that’s already vegan anyway, like the curries and dals. It’s a great way to promote vegan food that’s healthier – great dishes and great taste.”
We cook as much seasonal food as possible
The ladies support one another
“The biggest impact for the chefs at Ammi’s Kitchen is increasing their confidence in themselves and their capabilities. The pride they feel when they cook and see other people enjoying their food. They might have only cooked for their family, they might not know they’re amazing cooks! This leads them to have confidence to get a job elsewhere.
“Great friendships are formed too.”
“For some of these women working in the home, looking after children and sometimes relatives, they might never have had money of their own.
“One lady had worked in a shop in her local community. When she started at Ammi’s Kitchen, she had to speak in English to people. She really enjoyed being among other women, and got enough confidence to get a job in a supermarket. She said she wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for working here.”
They gain financial independence
I get an immense sense of pride in the ladies and what they do
“The kitchen has blossomed and is going really well. When I step back and look at that, it’s fantastic to see. The impact of Ammi’s Kitchen on the community is for people to meet people they might not have met before. It’s also about cohesion – and access to tasty food that brings communities together.
“We now offer outside catering, spice and recipe packs, and hope to do other things in the future like our own pickles and chutneys.
“We listen to what the customer wants and what the women want to do.”
Thank you Janine and all the ladies at Ammi’s Kitchen for sharing your story!
To find out more about Ammi’s Kitchen, or to order a takeaway, visit:
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