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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid