Culinary Institute for Refugees recognized as ‘Hero of the Month’

December 28, 2018 By Sara Bosworth Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Alexander Harris, culinary director of Emma’s Torch, accepts the award from Borough President Eric Adams. Eagle photo by Todd Maisel

A Carroll Gardens nonprofit that works with refugees and survivors of human trafficking to build culinary careers was honored by the Borough President last week as a “Hero of the Month.”

Borough President Eric Adams presented Alexander Harris, chef and culinary director at Emma’s Torch, with the award at a ceremony on Thursday at Borough Hall. 

The organization is named after Emma Lazarus, the poet and author who wrote the words that still mark the Statue of Liberty to this day: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

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The restaurant offers training to refugees, giving them a starting block from which to find meaningful culinary careers. The chefs-in-training receive eight weeks of paid apprenticeship training, English language classes and job placement services.

In 2017, 100 percent of the program’s graduates seeking full-time careers found jobs in the culinary world, enabling them to begin building a life in New York.

Earlier this month, the nonprofit announced it would open a concession program at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library starting in February.

Alexander said Emma’s Torch hopes to offer its students “a newfound sense of independence through helping them be confident in their interactions with people in [American] culture.”

Also honored at the ceremony were November and October’s “Heroes of the Month:” NYPD Officers Charles Edwards and Damion Graham, who saved an infant who had stopped breathing on a C train in October; and NYPD Deputy Inspector Joseph G. Seminara, who helped to rescue a woman trapped inside a burning car on the Belt Parkway in November.


— Additional reporting by Todd Maisel

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