I recently went on assignment for The National, exploring one of the many food incubators that has popped up in last few years. They sent met to Comal Heritage Food Incubator, located in the RiNo’s new development, TAXI in Denver. Food incubators are enterprises dedicated to building equality and opportunities in the culinary industry for immigrants, people of color, and women.
Food as we know it in the US is rooted in vibrant flavours from around the world. Pizza, burritos, sushi, hot dogs, you name it: all adapted from foreign places. Yet, restaurant workers of color earn 56 percent less than their white counterparts. Even worse, women of color earn $4 less per hour than white men. As the beloved and late Anthony Bourdain said: “Our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers.” The Food Incubator model was developed to address issues of inequality, help provide training/tools, and allow immigrants to share their talents by opening up their very own restaurants.
The Comal Heritage Food Incubator’s kitchen is run entirely by women. Many of these talented cooks have fled dangerous situations in places like Syria, El Salvador, and Mexico. The Focus Points Family Resource center is the non-profit behind coordinating the training and support for the program participants. The nonprofits draws candidates from some of the poorest areas of Denver. These women are educated in commercial food preparation and scaling their homestyle recipes for larger batches. Some Comal graduates have gone on to open their own catering companies, work in fine hotels, open up their own restaurants, and have even appeared on top chef.
Allowing immigrants to take pride in who they are and where they came from is powerful.
I am grateful for the opportunity to witness and work with these women. Having moved from Argentina to different places myself, I know how difficult it could be to adjust to a new culture. Seeing their food celebrated truly warms my heart, as it creates an outlet for people to associate people from other backgrounds in a positive way. So many women and immigrants give up everything they have to seek asylum in the US. I am proud of all the effort the Focus Points Family Resource Center has put in to create life-changing opportunities for these people.
If you are in the Denver Area, and find yourself needing a weekday lunch option, look no further than the Comal.
Not only will you enjoy a freshly prepared daily dish, but you might even find yourself enjoying a cup of Mate with a lovely lady from Lebanon. Sitting and speaking with this woman gave me such an appreciation for the resilient nature of the human spirit, and reminded me we all so much more in common than we think.
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