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Culinary Connections with Aishah Alfadhalah: Building Community through Mera Kitchen Collective S5E44

Culinary Connections with Aishah Alfadhalah: Building Community through Mera Kitchen Collective

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Unlock the secrets of art and creativity with 'The Truth in This Art' podcast, guided by the talented Rob Lee and today's guest: Aishah Alfadhalah, a cultural broker and co-founder of Mera Kitchen Collective. Originally from Kuwait, she ventured to Baltimore for college and graduate school after arriving in the US at the age of eighteen. Passionate about connecting with Baltimore's refugee community, Aishah serves as a mentor and interpreter, immersing herself in their stories and experiences. She believes that stories hold the power to shape perceptions of refugees and immigrants, and her love for food as a collection of memories and feelings further strengthens her bond with diverse cultures. As a vital link to the refugee and immigrant community, Aishah ensures that Mera's decisions genuinely reflect their needs. Additionally, she actively contributes to Baltimore's Community Advisory Board for the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Don't miss out on her inspiring journey of building a sense of community through culinary connections.

About Mera Kitchen Collective

Food brings people together, no matter where you are from. It’s a ritual, we gather with our friends and family around the table, not only feeding our bodies but feeding our souls, connecting with people we care about.  Mera Kitchen Collective is a community-driven, food business and we’re building a worker cooperative. We focus on the empowerment of chefs from around the world by celebrating our skills and talents in the kitchen, highlighting the value newcomers bring to the fabric of our society. 
We love Baltimore. We also recognize that policies and systems can create structural barriers that make it harder for some individuals to gain access to resources and opportunities -- and easier for others. Our goal as a collective is to amplify our chef's skills and talents.
Why 'Mera Kitchen'? We chose the name Mera Kitchen because it contains the Greek word Meraki, which has no direct English translation. Both a verb and an adverb, it connotes that when someone is doing an activity — like cooking — with so much care, devotion, and attention to the task at hand, they leave a piece of themselves in it. In a world where our attention is often divided, we believe that there is immeasurable beauty and power in the collective act of creating and sharing food made with love.
What we do: Mera Kitchen Collective hosts pop-up events, and we offer catering services and cooking classes throughout Baltimore City. Mera's chefs come from all over the world; many are here seeking refuge, eager to put skills back to use to re-establish an independent, sustainable livelihood. We hope to connect you with our chefs and our chefs with their local community. 
And now we’re opening our first restaurant! In October 2021, we moved to our first space! We’re currently open for lunch and expanding hours weekly! We envision our new home as a place that represents our diverse cultures as a team at Mera, and the community that we integrated into Baltimore. It is a vehicle to share our cultures; the aroma of cardamom in a rice dish, the tangy spices of salsa verde, fruity, tropical baked goods, and the refreshing gingery mint juices of Burkina Faso. This space is an opportunity for our cooks and chefs to fully express themselves, re-invent their food, collaborate with one another, and most importantly take the Baltimore community on a culinary adventure around the world. We believe in the power of communing over food, on long tables, with shared plates, in conversation, and in pausing to connect with new and old friends.
Mera Kitchen Collective is building a worker cooperative - we participate democratically as we build our business together. This allows each of us to only strengthen our culinary expertise and have a voice in the operations. We hope to use the cooperative model as a successful tool for wealth generation and fostering empowerment.

For today's discussion:

  • Delve into the heart of Mera Kitchen Collective's mission as they strive to foster a vibrant sense of community through the captivating medium of food. Explore how each dish they serve is a conduit to rich stories and cultural backgrounds, woven together to create a unique and unforgettable culinary experience.
  • Discover the profound emotional connection that food ignites, as Mera Kitchen Collective showcases how it goes beyond mere sustenance. Uncover the power of food to bind people together, creating cherished memories and forging lasting relationships.
  • Embark on a culinary journey with Mera Kitchen Collective as they expertly blend flavors and traditions from multiple countries and cultures. Unveil the art of crafting fusion dishes that pay homage to diverse culinary legacies, culminating in a delightful tapestry of tastes and influences.
  • Follow Aishah's transformative role as a cultural broker and translator within Mera Kitchen Collective, where she becomes a vital force in bridging cultural divides. Dive into her efforts to foster understanding and empathy between different backgrounds, creating an inclusive and harmonious culinary space.
  • Explore the dynamic growth of Mera Kitchen Collective and the principles that drive its success. Delve into their commitment to investing in members' skills and sharing financial wealth, as they expand their programming and operating hours, ensuring the collective's enduring impact on the community.

You're in for a treat! Aishah shares her journey from Kuwait to Baltimore and the early days of building the collective. Mera Kitchen Collective is a cooperative that aims to create a sense of community through food. Aishah discusses the meaning of the word "mera" and how it aligns with the collective's values. She also talks about the importance of sharing cultural backgrounds through food and the challenges of marrying global foods to the Baltimore market. Aishah highlights the communal aspect of food and the role it plays in creating connections and memories. She also discusses the growth and future plans for Mera Kitchen Collective, including investing in members' skills and sharing financial wealth.


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This program is supported (in part) by a grant from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.

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Original music by Daniel Alexis Music with additional music from Chipzard.

Episode illustration by Alley Kid Art.

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Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Host
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.
Aishah Alfadhalah
Guest
Aishah Alfadhalah
A cultural broker and co-founder of Mera Kitchen Collective. Originally from Kuwait, she ventured to Baltimore for college and graduate school after arriving in the US at the age of 18.

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