The past two pandemic years might seem like an unlikely time to launch a food business. But it was into just this setting that Dream Cuisines, a newcomer women's food business program in Vancouver, B.C., was birthed in March 2021. Dream Cuisines is a project of Flavours of Hope, a nonprofit social enterprise that envisions a society where newcomer refugee women flourish and experience belonging in the community through cooking, storytelling, and entrepreneurship. Participants launching food-based businesses receive mentorship and access to kitchen space and peer-based knowledge.
Trixie Ling, who was recently appointed by the Christian Reformed Church in North America Canada Corporation to a new committee focusing on anti-racism and intercultural conciliation in Canada, founded Flavours of Hope in 2017. She has a passion for living out love and justice within the community through building relationships with newcomers. As Ling engaged with newcomer women, she repeatedly experienced how the sharing of food was the common language for bridging cultures and for finding a sense of home. Flavours of Hope grew from Ling imagining a place where women could proudly share their food, culture and stories.
The enterprise began by hosting cultural food pop-up events at local cafes, restaurants, community centres, churches, and neighborhoods. As successful as the pop-up food events were, Ling envisioned more. With the support of friend and colleague Celine Chuang, they co-created the Dream Cuisine program, a venture to equip newcomer women entrepreneurs to make a living by doing what they excel at: cooking and sharing food. It’s a nine-month immersive program that hopes to address systemic barriers in the food industry by providing participants with access to educational workshops, peer knowledge sharing, commissary kitchen space, sales channels, and a network of supportive relationships.
Ling and Chuang began last year with the first cohort of three women new to Canada from Mexico and Egypt. Three businesses—Mis Cazuelas Mexican Food, Tinkerbake, and Super Dishes Egyptian Cuisine—have launched and are now nourishing the community and selling food through farmers markets, retail shops, and catering. Entrepreneur Angeles Canedo’s story recently was featured in Canada’s Maclean’s magazine. A second cohort with two women from Iran and India saw their businesses launch at the end of June 2022.
Ling’s vision goes beyond hopes for economic security through entrepreneurship. Storytelling, hospitality, equity, and justice are all pillars of a mission and vision that seeks to gather all peoples around an extended table of friendship and community in a spirit of reciprocity. Ling said a driving question for her is, “What does it mean to love?”
Dena Nicholai is chaplain and refugee support mobilizer with the Christian Reformed churches of B.C. and a member of First CRC of Vancouver. She recognizes barriers to belonging and community that are faced by newcomers to Canada. “One newcomer who had been a refugee told me after experiencing such loss, displacement, and dehumanization, she was looking for somewhere that she could feel once again that she was being who God created her to be. I've had multiple opportunities to connect with the Flavours of Hope and Dream Cuisines team, and I think they are creating one of these beautiful spaces—where newcomer women can flourish—and I am continually grateful for their work.”