*Note: at the time of our team cooking class at Migrateful (Tuesday 7 December), restrictions allowed for indoor gatherings. As a standard precaution, everyone in attendance had taken lateral flow tests (with negative results!), alongside the ‘business as usual’ hygiene of hand-washing and fresh air flow*.
Wow – 2021 has been quite a year. And we sincerely hope you and yours are keeping well, wherever you’re reading this from around the world!
In this ever-changing landscape we call ‘the norm’ these days, the Empower team were delighted to be able to reunite ahead of the holiday season.
The team joined together from across London, Bristol, Frome, Cambridge and Leeds for the occasion: a cooking class at the brilliant Migrateful cooking school in Clerkenwell.
What’s so special about Migrateful, we hear you ask? Migrateful is a special place – and their new location, part-funded by the brilliant folks at (and Empower client) Spacehive, is nothing short of an oasis in the hubbub of London’s bustling streets.
Migrateful run cookery classes led by migrant chefs who are struggling to integrate and access employment, due to legal and linguistic barriers. Their mission? To empower (!) and celebrate our chefs on their journey to employment and independence.
The team were nothing short of brilliant, charming and knowledgeable. And our Head Chef, the vivacious Delores, wasted no time in showing us the ropes as we donned our aprons.
Delores, originally from Jamaica, taught us how to make a selection of family favourites: fried plantain, vegetable curries, fresh handmade dumplings and a true Jamaican staple, rice and peas. Before we began our class in earnest, Delores shared her story with us:
“I love cooking delicious, nutritional food, using lots of garlic and spices. I was born into a family of chefs. As a young child growing up, I always helped my Grandmother with the cooking, preparing different dishes whilst my mother was out working as a chef. In 2001 I came to the UK on my own, then in 2005 they took away my immigration status and I was no longer allowed to work – 15 years ago and I’m still waiting!”
We divided into pairs and threes, each taking a different element of the meal, as Delores flew around the kitchen, ably showing us the best way to chop, dice, knead and fry the freshly prepared ingredients. She didn’t hold back in her critique, either. She did warn us right at the start of the session that she was a perfectionist – and she was not lying!
Aside from having the chance to learn from an incredibly skilled chef, one of the best parts of the cooking class for us all, unsurprisingly, was the bit where we got to eat our hard earned meal. We sat at a long table together, with Delores joining us pride of place at the centre of the table. She looked so at home there – and it was a joy to see.
We shared stories over the meal – of her journey to her home in London, where she has now lived for 15 years. She shared the cover of the cookbook she was working on, that she’d designed herself – featuring a painting of a coal pot, which is essential if you’re to stand a chance of making truly authentic Jamaican food.
We also spoke about the mental health benefits of cooking and eating together in large groups. About how discussing tougher subjects can be made easier over food, and how her skills were gained in the family kitchen, passed down the generations. She said that was where her perfectionism came from, no doubt! Time spent in the kitchen helped relieve the stresses of the day, she’d said – and we couldn’t agree more.
We’re so grateful to have been able to catch a few hours together with the team in the lead up to the Christmas break. It seems timing is everything these days.
We’d like to thank the volunteers and staff at Migrateful for creating such wonderful memories for us all – and a particularly huge thank you to Delores for putting up with our nonsense and lack of knife skills!
We really couldn’t recommend booking a class at Migrateful more – whether for a memorable team away day like ours, or to spend some quality time with friends and family. You’ll find Gift Vouchers on their website – for both in-person and Zoom classes, meaning folks from all over the world can join in. We can’t wait to come back again soon.
Here’s to 2021 and the joyful moments and memories like this that we’ve been able to make and share. Onwards, to 2022 – and all the challenges, change and excitement it’s likely to bring.
Now, if you don’t mind us, we’re off to dig out some leftovers…