Home' Hospitality Business : HB MAY 2017 Contents POMEGRANATE KITCHEN
A new catering service, run by refugees
serving their own traditional food to
Wellingtonians, is proving a win-win
Hajar Mazraeh is a talented cook and
skilled seamstress. Since arriving as a
refugee in Wellington, three years ago,
she has scratched the barrel looking for
work, in part to supplement the family
income, also to get out of the lonely
house and meet people in her new
country. She has practised her English,
volunteered at the local curtain bank,
tried home sewing and was briefly a
teacher’s aide, but none of these were
viable long term options. Many refugees
share similar stories.
Enter Rebecca Stewart and
Pomegranate Kitchen, a new, out
catering concept established to provide
training and employment for refugees.
Now Hajar is the supervisor and an
indispensable part of the cooking team
employed at Pomegranate.
Last year Rebecca was working on
refugee resettlement with the New
Zealand Red Cross and saw that, despite
their diverse talents, many refugees
couldn’t find work. A lack of English and
work experience didn’t help.
I’d seen a similar programme overseas
so asked the Red Cross if they thought
it would work here, also I talked to local
chefs who were really supportive, says
Rebecca. “It’s not just a human right to
have employment it’s a responsibility as a
host country to provide it. With the diverse
skills refugees bring it’s also about adding
value for us.”
Thus Pomegranate Kitchen was
registered as a Charitable Trust;
Wellington City Council helped with a start
up grant and the Red Cross put the new
recruits through formal food handling
and commercial kitchen training. The
Wellington Community Trust and the Nikau
Foundation also helped, says Rebecca.
“When we recruited we looked for
a reasonable level of English so they
could communicate safely in the kitchen
– although most of our current cooks
speak Farsi and Arabic so that helps.
We also looked for a real passion in
food, but they didn’t need to have formal
Pomegranate now employs seven chefs
who work rosters. The kitchen is based in
Adulis Restaurant during the day, until the
restaurant opens for evening service.
What we do is provide lunches and out
catering for the people of Wellington, says
Rebecca. “Our menus include traditional
dishes from the countries of our cooks.
We trial and taste the recipes they make
for their own families, and work out
how to present them to suit commercial
production and Kiwi tastes.”
Rebecca is grateful for support from
chefs such as Scott Barret, now a Trust
Board member, and Laura Green. “Scott
helped us set up and now he advises us
about equipment, ordering, systems and
supplier networks. He also encourages
us. He said: you’ve just got to start, you’ll
figure it out as you go.
“There is so much to learn, not just the
cooking skills, it’s the timing, delegating,
quantities. This concept is new, so we
had to actually start to find out what we
After recruiting and training, the
business kicked off last October with a
two week ‘pop up’ shop at Moore Wilson.
That helped for marketing, to get the word
out and to promote our crowd funding
campaign, says Rebecca. “People have
been really supportive. Volunteers now
help with, for example, communications,
accounts and kitchen equipment.”
Central government is also taking an
interest, with Alfred Ngaro, Minister for
the Community and Voluntary sector,
paying a recent visit.
“We have just employed two more
cooks. While lunch orders still fluctuate
our catering, for private parties, corporate
functions and office meetings is providing
steady and repeat business.”
Now, however, the size of the kitchen
hinders further growth, she adds. “We’ve
managed to scale up to cater for 150
guests, and next week we are doing 200,
but we don’t have the scope or storage
for really big jobs. We are looking for a
bigger commercial kitchen, then we could
also add on sauces and other products to
help cover costs.
“The idea is that we will become
financially self-sufficient, but look for
further funding to help with new products
and programmes because, in the food
industry, margins are so small.”
Pomegranate Kitchen = Talent & Tradition!
Part of the Pomegranate Kitchen crew,
from left Nazia Askary, Genet Seyoum,
Hajar Mazraeh, Rebecca Stewart.
Hospitality BUSINESS | May 2017 | 11
Links Archive HB APL 2017 HB JUNE 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page