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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid