News / USA

    Immigrant Women Bake Up Hopeful Future

    Morocco native Fatiha Outabount, 27, shapes dough at the Hot Bread Kitchen bakery in New York. (VOA-D. Grunebaum)
    Morocco native Fatiha Outabount, 27, shapes dough at the Hot Bread Kitchen bakery in New York. (VOA-D. Grunebaum)
    As the oven doors open and close at the Hot Bread Kitchen bakery in East Harlem, the aroma of fresh breads fill the air: walnut raisin, grindstone rye, and sourdough.

    Throughout the day, Fatiha Outabount and about a dozen other women pat, shape and bake dough to create artisanal bread for upscale markets and some of New York City’s finest restaurants.

    The apprentices

    The Morocco native, 27, is one of 13 trainees at the bakery. Most of them are immigrant women who used to be unemployed or had minimum wage jobs.

    Outabount is four months into a year-long apprenticeship which pays $9 an hour, a little more than minimum wage.

    “I love this program because we know a lot of stuff like how we bake bread, how we mix it, how we shape it, a lot of stuff I don’t know it before," Outabount says. "So I love it here. We work like a family.’"

    Haiti native Marie Poisson, 60, (right) takes an English class with other immigrant women as part of a program offered by the Hot Bread Kitchen bakery. (VOA-Dave Grunebaum)Haiti native Marie Poisson, 60, (right) takes an English class with other immigrant women as part of a program offered by the Hot Bread Kitchen bakery. (VOA-Dave Grunebaum)
    x
    Haiti native Marie Poisson, 60, (right) takes an English class with other immigrant women as part of a program offered by the Hot Bread Kitchen bakery. (VOA-Dave Grunebaum)
    Haiti native Marie Poisson, 60, (right) takes an English class with other immigrant women as part of a program offered by the Hot Bread Kitchen bakery. (VOA-Dave Grunebaum)
    Once Outabount completes her training, she’ll move into a full-time position at Hot Bread, just as Marie Poisson did.

    “I love baking," says the Haiti native, 60, who completed her apprenticeship more than a year ago, and now earns $14 an hour at a job she loves, which makes her proud. “When I go with a bread at home, I say to my children, 'I make bread now, this is my bread, I make bread.'”

    Investing in women

    Before she founded Hot Bread Kitchen, Jessamyn Rodriguez worked on immigration policy for the United Nations. Living in New York City, she saw first-hand a problem that she wanted to address.

    “I really had this realization that many women who immigrate to the United States have passion and skill tied up in the culinary arts but often end up in jobs with no professional trajectory," she says. "So it was really that kind realization and this idea that I could help women leverage skill and passion in the culinary arts for better job was kind of the kernel of why I got started with this. “

    Rodriguez began in 2007 with two trainees in her home kitchen. Now, Hot Bread operates out of a commercial bakery with 13 trainees and five graduates.

    “Immigrant minority women are the lowest paid workers in the U.S. work force, but they have one of the highest participation rates," she says. "And I’m also a firm believer that if you invest in a woman, you’re investing in a family and a community.”

    United Nations of breads

    The women’s international background, from Mexico, to Bangladesh to Togo, is reflected in the bakery’s offerings. More than two-dozen types of bread are for sale, including Morrocan M’smen and Caribbean fruit bread.

    “The breads we bake are inspired by the countries that women come from," Rodriguez says. "We’re the only bakery in the city that’s doing a multi-ethnic line of breads. I like to say that we’re like the United Nations of breads.”

    Sales of those breads account for about three-quarters of Hot Bread’s budget. The rest comes from grants and donations.

    English lessons

    Along with the training, jobs and health benefits, the women also take English lessons twice a week. Lessons which are often tied to cooking.

    Outabount and Poisson say these lessons help them in the kitchen and in their personal lives.

    “My English better now, getting better now," Poisson says.

    Outabount says, “Before I don’t speak English. Nothing, just hi, bye, good night, that’s it. But when I start to have class here, little bit I’m speaking English, a little bit well."

    The goal, according to Rodriguez, is for these women to develop the skills to not only make bread but to eventually run bakeries.

    “A head baker in New York City can make up to $65,000 a year," she says. "And we’re hoping that, within a few years, our women will be really headed towards the head baker management track positions in the city.”

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora