Chickpea Sisters: Making change through food
Now a successful catering company who are working on releasing their first cookbook, the Chickpea Sisters evolved from a CARAS run weekly cooking class for refugee and migrant women. Socially isolated women who were new to the country met once a week to share recipes from around the world, then cook and eat together. Gradually, the thirteen women who attended regular sessions started thinking about catering for public events, and the Chickpea Sisters was born. We are immensely proud of all that these women have achieved, and look forward to seeing where their story goes next.
In this post Mputa and Dalia reflect on their experiences, giving an insight into how the group came together and what they have overcome to get to where they are today.
These are their stories…
I arrived in the UK as a refugee nine years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I am a mother to three young children. I love to cook for them, but I also love to cook with the Chickpea Sisters because I get the opportunity to mix with people from different cultures, countries and backgrounds.
At first it was strange and difficult to cook other people’s recipes, but after a while it has become enjoyable, and I have become a better cook with diverse skills. It feels good to be part of a group that is providing a unique service by cooking food from all over the world.
When the Chickpea Sisters first started catering for events, one of the biggest challenges was getting used to cooking in different kitchen spaces and environments. Meeting new people was also daunting but it is a necessary part of our business. Over time we have become more confident and catering for events and meeting new people is enjoyable.
In the future I hope that the Chickpea Sisters will continue to grow and I would like to use the cooking skills that I have gained to work as a chef in a restaurant or café alongside my work with the Chickpea Sisters
For anyone else who would like to start their own business I will give them the following advice: Make sure that you do something that you are passionate about and that inspires you.
The reason I have been able to do what I do is because I love cooking and trying new recipes. It is also important to learn from your mistakes, and to learn from the other people you work with. Finally, it is important that you have a direction and a purpose when you start a business, as this will help you reach your goals.”
The story of the Chickpea Sisters begins with a cooking club formed of many women from different backgrounds who shared the same interest in cooking.
It started as a weekly meeting to cook and share food from different countries and was enjoyable and beneficial for everyone in the group. After a year it evolved into a steadily growing business. This year we have had training in food hygiene and have written a business plan, things that enable us to run the business successfully. There have been some challenges as we have changed from a cooking group to a business, but working alongside your friends makes it fun.
We cook food for parties, meetings and events. It helps every one of us to earn some income and it benefits society. It has given all of us the chance to learn new recipes and skills, and has given me the chance to make lots of new friends and become a part of the local community.
This world is full of different types of food, and the Chickpeas Sisters gather to cook our different types of food and to serve to people with love.
Here are two taster recipes from the upcoming Chickpea Sisters cookbook:
“Delicious food drawing on a variety of cuisines, and served charmingly. The Supper Club the Chickpea Sisters provided was excellent” Noel Hunwick, Supper Club Host
“We really enjoyed the informal atmosphere at the supper club, meeting new people and sharing delicious, flavoursome food” Hanya Chlala, Supper Club Guest
“The Chickpea Sisters were able to cater for our large event and provide everything we wanted. They were really friendly and flexible to fit around us and the food was absolutely fantastic. We’ve already recommended them to other groups to use in the future and we hope to use them next year” Dan Baron, The Spark
For more information see: www.chickpeasisters.com
This blogpost has been adapted from one previously appearing on http://www.migrantvoice.org.