Foodies Without Borders
A native of Nairobi, Kenya, Anthony Njigua immigrated to the United States about 20 years ago, put himself through culinary school, became a citizen and made enough money to occasionally vacation at coastal resorts close to his home in Kenya.
Once, while relaxing at one of these resorts, his thoughts strayed to the palpable poverty lingering on the periphery of his luxurious accommodation.
“I just saw the poverty surrounding this beautiful place at which I was staying, and I kept thinking about it,” Mr. Njigua said in a recent interview.
He did more than that.
He spoke to the local youths who, like bees to honey, were drawn to the glamorous lifestyle of the resorts, he said.
The young people were all looking to pick up the opportunity crumbs that fell from the area’s bustling tourism scene.
Some, known as “Beach Boys & Night Girls,” often “scour the beaches for anything valuable to sell including being involved in sexual exploitation by sex predators posing as international tourists,” Mr. Njigua said.
“I asked them what they wanted to do long term, and they all said they wanted to be chefs,” he said.
“They knew being chef at a resort is a good job. But you have to have papers to get a job; you have to prove yourself through education and such.
“For many of them, however, becoming a chef at a resort was difficult if not impossible. But I saw a way to get around that whole system.”
“Foodies Without Borders,” a Boston-based, non-profit that seek to marry Kenya’s two largest industries–tourism and agriculture—in a venture that would provide Kenyan teenagers and their families a foundation in the culinary arts and sustainable farming.
“I believe there is a real potential of creating meaningful employment and self reliance opportunities for underserved youth and girls through training of modern culinary skills and innovative farming techniques,” Mr. Njigua said.
The backbone of the program will be annual, culinary workshops in which volunteer chefs from around the world share their skills and knowledge with teenagers who are then provided with unpaid internships at local resorts and restaurants.
Two resorts and one restaurant have so far agreed to offer internships to participants of the workshops, of which two have already been held.
And according to Mr. Njigua, three of the workshops graduates are finding regular work as personal chefs.
The two completed culinary workshops were test cases, and the non-profit is looking to scale up its efforts now.
In addition to the culinary workshops, the non-profit will donate used kitchen wares, farm equipment and other essentials as part of its efforts to introduce modern and sustainable farming techniques to local families and communities.
To help raise funds for the venture, the non-profit is doing a series of “popup” dinners and workshops stateside and in Kenya.
Recently, one such popup, was hosted in Cambridge by Mr. Njigua’s partner and consultant, Njathi Kabui, an internationally celebrated organic chef, food strategist, urban farmer and food activist.
Another is slated to be held in Worcester on Saturday, 6 pm, at 6 Jacques St. The venue is the studio of local artist Abu Mwenye, whose work can be viewed here. The flyer for the event can be viewed here.
Those seeking a more adventurous venue may be interested in a series of popup “Permaculinary Workshops & Safari” to be held at several locations in Kenya.
Chefs and others who would like to work with the non-profit on this venture can make contact here.
Foodies Without Borders, according to Mr. Njigua, “is in part a lasting tribute to his late mother(a baker) who inspired him to be the best host, chef, and model citizen I could be, one who will always give back to society and its underserved communities whenever a chance presents itself.”
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