Global cooking class is a recipe for community

What's cooking? Turns out it's community in the weekly feast at the collective kitchen at the Alberta Avenue Community League.

Weekly class in Edmonton's Alberta Avenue neighbourhood brings new Canadians together

Sara Assad is in charge in this kitchen at the Alberta Avenue Community League. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Sara Assad hollers instructions to 30 people sandwiched into the kitchen of Alberta Avenue Community League.

"We bring people together," she explains. "They cook together, they share their stories." 

But today, Assad, the community wellness facilitator in charge of this collective kitchen for the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, has her work cut out for her.

She's shepherding new Canadians from around the world in the culinary creation of a Lebanese-style meat pie, salad and cookies.

'Food is a very important part of culture'

5 years ago
Duration 2:25
Watch this video from inside the global cooking program of the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.

English is not the first language for anyone here and all of the chefs, including Jiangwei Qian, have converged on the kitchen, bringing with them their own way of doing things from back home.

Qian stands at the stainless steel sink gently rinsing parsley.

"In my opinion we should wash it before cutting it because if you cut it before washing it all the nutrition will be gone," explains Qian originally from China.
Every week for close to two years, Jiangwei Qian has been taking part in the global cooking program with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

But not everyone agrees. Some think the parsley should be washed after it's chopped and it's conflicts like this that Assad helps to resolve every Tuesday for the past two years.

"Food is a very important part of culture. Here, not to just exchange the cooking skills, but more importantly it's an exchange of culture. So that's why we enjoy the program," Qian said.

For Assad, such interactions help participants connect with the broader community they now call home.

She recalls the isolation and loneliness she felt when she moved to Canada from Pakistan 17 years ago.
Global cooking participant chop parsley in the kitchen. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

"I make sure my participants don't feel lonely. On a personal basis you have to connect with them and then when they're comfortable they're open. When they're open then they share things and they participate more," Assad said.

For more from the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers catch Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and Monday at 11 a.m. on CBC TV.
Lunch is served at this week's global cooking program. (EMCN)