Calgary immigrants share a taste of their culture and recipes in online cookbook

Immigrants and refugees from Calgary are the stars of a new cooking video series on YouTube.

Newcomers are sharing special recipes from home on YouTube

A newcomer prepares a chicken korma dish in one of 15 videos from Calgary’s Immigrant Education Society. (Immigrant Education Society)

Immigrants and refugees from Calgary are the stars of a new cooking video series on YouTube.

The videos showcase all kinds of recipes from newcomers home countries — giving them a chance to practice English, learn about each other and share a part of their own culture with other Calgarians.

The YouTube tutorials feature follow-along recipes for dishes like Pork Belly Adobo, African Puff-puffs, Russian salad and Chicken Korma. Each dish was presented by different newcomers.

"The aim is the give them the opportunity share some of their knowledge that they bring," said Cesar Suva, director of research and program development at the Immigrant Education Society.

Cesa Suva with the Immgration Education Society says food brings people together in a way that nothing else can. He says the project gives immigrants that chance to give back to the city through food and share who they are through their recipes. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"Sometimes newcomers are receptacles of knowledge — learning English, learning about Canadian culture — but rarely do we give them the opportunity to give something to us," said Suva.

Suva says giving newcomers a sense of pride and community gives them confidence to share and celebrate cherished recipes from back home.

"Everybody eats and everybody cooks across cultures. It's one unifying thing and it's non-political, it's just food," said Suva.

Edwin Aleman from El Salvador made a berry smoothie for his recipe. He's only been here for four months.

Edwin Aleman from El Salvador makes his berry smoothie recipe in one of 15 videos that make up an online cook book, giving newcomers the chance to share a taste of their home countries and culture with Calgarians. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"It's a good recipe, it's healthy. I like to cook and it's a good opportunity, learning," said Aleman.

"I enjoyed showing the right way to make a Russian salad," added another newcomer, Elmira Rodikova.

"People here cook a different salad and call it potato salad and many people think it's the Russian one, but I wanted to prove that this is the right recipe," said Rodikova.

Her advice to other immigrants who might be interested in taking part in future videos is to "be brave and do it."

"Don't be scared. Even if you don't speak English very well you can show how to cook," Rodikova said. 

Elmira Rodikova, originally from Russia, shared her recipe for an authentic Russian potato salad in her video. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"I like to learn more," said Claudia Gutierrez, who's only been in Calgary for nine months. Gutierrez made a Filet Mignon. 

Cesar Suva says he hopes Calgarians try out some of the recipes and get to know newcomers a little better and see where they're from.

"They're sharing something that's really a part of themselves, so this is opening up the doors to a personal get to know you type of interaction," he said.

The recipes can be found through the Immigration Education Society's website and YouTube.

They're looking into crowdfunding and other initiatives to keep the project going and adding more recipes from more newcomers in the future.


Dan McGarvey


Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, using just an iPhone and mobile tech. His work is used by mobile journalism (mojo) trainers and educators around the world. Dan is largely focused on under-reported communities and issues in Calgary and southern Alberta. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at