We are thrilled to introduce you to Flavours of Hope's newest cohort of the 2023 Dream Cuisines program! This program is dedicated to empowering and equipping newcomer women entrepreneurs to start their food businesses, allowing them to transform their passion for cooking and sharing food into a viable source of income. The nine-month program takes these women on a journey to provide them with the necessary tools and support to grow their food business and increase accessibility and equity in the food industry.
Dream Cuisines goes beyond conventional entrepreneurship programs by recognizing the unique challenges faced by newcomer women such as language barriers and navigating through complex systems. Through a comprehensive approach, they are offered access to educational workshops, sales channels like the Vancouver Farmers Markets, and a network of supportive relationships. Flavours of Hope’s holistic support system allows these aspiring chefs and resilient entrepreneurs to navigate the complexities of the industry and bring their culinary dreams to life. Through food entrepreneurship, the women have a stronger sense of belonging and cultural pride, and are seen and celebrated as leaders in the community.
Coho is proud to partner with Flavours of Hope to provide commissary kitchen space to these women. By providing a space for this extraordinary group of women, each bringing their own cultural heritage and culinary expertise to the table, we are not only fostering economic empowerment but also celebrating the rich diversity and cultural heritage they bring to the culinary landscape of Vancouver. We are excited to be a part of their growth as they gain experience in a professional kitchen space, receive mentorship and share their knowledge with their peers.
Now in its third year, Dream Cuisines continues to break barriers and pave the way for newcomer women in the food industry. Meet the newest cohort of Dream Cuisines!
Vinaya hails from Mumbai, India and moved to Canada in 2020. She left the corporate marketing world behind and decided to pursue her passion for baking. After working for a French pastry shop, she discovered how receptive Vancouver was to trying new international flavours. Inspired by the city’s diversity and a year after giving birth to her first child, she joined Flavours of Hope and started Elaichi Patisserie with hopes of sharing her culture through food.
Currently, Vinaya is working out of our Coho Powell commissary full-time, with a starting line-up of recipes she developed when she moved to Canada and was missing the flavours of home. On the menu currently are 2 savoury pastries: a Masala Brioche Bun and a Chutney Cheese Puff; and 2 sweet desserts: a Pistachio Saffron Cake and a Mango Rice Pudding. In the future, Vinaya has plans to expand and start a line of seasonal products that fuse Western traditions with Indian flavours.
As a new business owner, Vinaya has learned two things about herself – one being her emotional resilience in running a business after giving birth, and the other being her knack for numbers and budgeting.
Rehab is the owner of Egyptian Bites. In Egypt, Rehab always had a fond relationship with food, growing up on a farm where they made everything from scratch. As an elementary school teacher, she would often bring in pastries for her colleagues on holidays. When Rehab and her family moved to Canada in 2018, she joined programs at nearby Community Centres to improve her English. Through those groups, Rehab began introducing Egyptian cuisine to her neighbours, refining recipes that she learned from her mother and grandmother. When she saw an overwhelmingly positive response to her food, she was inspired to transform her passion for feeding others into a business.
Rehab is a mother of two who enjoys cooking traditional meals for her family. Her favourite dish to make is feteer, a flaky Egyptian pastry with an optional filling that can be both sweet or savoury. The nutella and pistachio sweet feteers can be found on her regular menu of products that she sells at the Vancouver Farmers Markets. She also makes a variety of vegetarian feteers with mushrooms, olives, spinach, peppers and cheese.
With no prior experience working in a professional kitchen, Rehab has settled into Coho Powell comfortably and learned that she truly enjoys the methodology and science of cooking. With her newfound love for cooking combined with her passion for making others happy through food, Rehab’s goal is to introduce more people to Egyptian cuisine, with the dream of one day opening her own restaurant.
Founded by Viviana Rojas, Colombian Antojitos is bringing the vibrant street food culture of Colombia to Vancouver. Viviana has been working out of Coho East Georgia with her mother, making their family’s recipes of Beef Empanadas (corn dough pockets filled with beef, potatoes, rice and vegetables), Chicken Papa Rellenas (crispy potato balls filled with chicken, rice, onions and spices), and Aborrajados (fried plantains stuffed with cheese and guava jam).
Viviana has always loved cooking, learning skills from her mother and working in different restaurants in Colombia. She moved to Canada in 2019 with her mother and daughter, and joined the Flavours of Hope Dream Cuisines program this year, excited to share her culture amongst the wide variety of cuisines found in Vancouver. Through her business, she hopes to inspire other immigrant women to step out of their comfort zone and pursue their passions. Since coming to Canada and joining Flavours of Hope, Viviana has learned about the cultures of her peers through food and believes there is plenty of room for more knowledge sharing from others.
Viviana’s Colombian pride is evident through her colourful logo, flags, and signs decorating their tent at the Vancouver Farmers Market. Keep an eye out for their yellow, blue and red colours, as Viviana has plans to expand to more markets and catering events this year.
Sabor a Yucatan specializes in Cochinita Pibil, a traditional slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Peninsula. Their family business is run by Laura, her husband Edgardo, and her daughter Paulina. Using her grandmother’s Mayan recipe, Laura has adapted her recipes with alternative methods to traditional underground cooking using the convection ovens at Coho East Georgia. She’s also found alternative ingredients, such as replacing sour oranges found only in Mexico, with a mixture of lime, lemons, and oranges to pickle the onions that garnish her Cochinita Pibil.
Laura is no stranger to cooking, especially in large quantities, having owned her own restaurant in Mexico, specializing in food from Yucatán. Since working out of a commissary, she’s found cooking to be a mood booster and an outlet for her emotions. She was excited to join the Flavours of Hope Dream Cuisines program after seeing how receptive Vancouver is to Mexican cuisine, and knowing that there is little representation of Mayan cuisine. Laura and her family hope to one day see their frozen Cochinita Pibil sold in supermarkets across the country to introduce more people to Yucatán cuisine. She explained that their logo has a Mayan temple in the centre, referring to the origins of their family and their culture. In having her food and products widely known, she hopes to also share the beauty of the Indigenous Mayan culture and history in Yucatán.
Rana moved to Canada in 2019 from Damascus, Syria, with her husband, son, and daughter’s family. She brought along traditional recipes that she would cook with her mother for parties and celebrations and decided to share them with her newfound Arabic community in Vancouver. After hearing the positive feedback about her cooking, she decided to launch Damaskino Pastry, specializing in Ma’amoul (butter cookies made with semolina flour filled with dates, pistachios, or walnuts), Yalanji (grape leaves stuffed with rice), and Fatayer (pastry stuffed cheese or za’atar).
With no prior experience in a professional cooking environment, Rana quickly learned how to operate commercial-grade equipment to make her recipes faster and more efficiently out of Coho Powell. With the help of her husband, Rana enjoys cooking large batches of her menu for events and the Vancouver Farmers Markets. She hopes to one day open a cafe so she can take her catering to new neighbourhoods. Through Damaskino Pastry, Rana is excited to inspire Arabic women to share their culture through the cuisines they know best. Even though she is in the early stages of her business, Rana is optimistic and excited to act as a mentor and share her knowledge with other newcomer businesses.
The Dream Cuisines program recognizes and addresses the unique challenges faced by newcomer women in their pursuit of their culinary dreams. This nine-month journey isn't just about entrepreneurship; it's a transformative experience that equips these women with the tools, knowledge, and networks they need to navigate the food industry independently. Each participant's journey is a testament to what can be achieved with the right support, guidance, and a community of like-minded individuals.
Although the 2023 Dream Cuisines 9-month program comes to an end in October, we anticipate that this isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of these women. In these next few months of the program, we invite you to visit Vinaya, Rehab, Viviana, Laura, and Rana at the local farmers markets and support their family businesses through catering and online.