Montreal collective seeks to empower immigrant women through food

Based in the city's east end, Food'elles is a non-profit that places immigrant women, and their culture, at the forefront.

Food'elles is a non-profit that promotes cultural diversity, 1 meal at a time

Montreal collective seeks to empower immigrant women through food

9 months ago
Duration 1:59
Based in the city's east end, Food'elles is a non-profit that places immigrant women, and their culture, at the forefront.

In a converted kitchen space on Ste-Catherine Street East, Carina Albuquerque talks animatedly about Brazilian cuisine.

A self-described nerd in the kitchen, she explains to the assembled group how Portuguese colonization and the slave trade had an impact on Brazil's food culture.

"Food is political. Eating is political and that's something that I really want to make clear for people," she told CBC in an interview afterward.

Albuquerque works with the non-profit organization Food'elles, which offers meal delivery and culinary workshops as part of its mission to promote cultural diversity and empower immigrant women.

The organization was founded earlier this year and is run by several women, all immigrants, who want to create spaces for social integration.

They also want to highlight the value of their culinary traditions and introduce people to their culture through food.

"Food has always been a big part of my life," said Albuquerque, whose family owned restaurants when she was growing up in Brazil.

​Carina Albuquerque is a cook who leads culinary workshops at Food'elles, sharing her Brazilian recipes and culture with participants. (Submitted by ​​Tsahaï Papatakis)

When she heard about Food'elles and its mission, Albuquerque knew she wanted to get involved to share her passion and knowledge.

"I'm very grateful for Food'elles for giving me this platform," she said.

Bringing people together

​Tsahaï Papatakis, a co-founder of Food'elles, explained that the organization has come a long way from its humble beginnings.

"Actually, we started in my kitchen, in my home," she said.

Now the group has a permanent space in Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, where they host cooking classes and events.

Papatakis, who was born to a Franco-Italian mother and Greek and Ethiopian father, said she sees food as a tremendous opportunity to break down social barriers.

"It's really positive to discover a new culture through the food because it's so positive, it's good vibes and sharing and talking about food, I think people love that," she said.

At Food'elles, women offer food delivery services and cooking workshops based on the food traditions and recipes of their culture. (Submitted by Tsahaï Papatakis)

The original objective of Food'elles was to offer a catering service for events, but with restaurants closed due to the pandemic restrictions last winter, Papatakis said they pivoted to home food delivery.

Papatakis said, so far, the reaction from clients has been really positive and they have high hopes of expanding their offering.

Eventually she'd like to see Food'elles become a springboard to help immigrant women network, launch projects and develop new skills.

"I want to promote cultural diversity and I think that immigrant women have a lot of things to give to society."


Marilla Steuter-Martin has been a journalist with CBC Montreal since 2015.


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