"You’re gonna split that into thirds,” Alexander Harris told three budding cooks.
The instructions he provides at Emma's Torch are an education.
“You want to hear that sizzle,” he said as they sweated onions over the stove.
Emma’s Torch is a non-profit job training and placement service for refugees, people seeking asylum and survivors of human trafficking.
“If you’re eating at Emma’s Torch, you’re actually eating our student’s homework,” Executive Director and Founder of Emma’s Torch Kerry Brodie told NY1.
She says 100 people have graduated from the 10-week course in two-and-a-half years and she placed almost all of them in jobs, but everything paused with the pandemic.
“COVID has had an enormous impact on our work," said Brodie.
The restaurant and school closed for health safety reasons. Brodie says she and many her students were juggling childcare, so she didn’t want to reopen until children returned to schools.
“We’re just dealing with the day by day,” she said.
“We need to support these women because they know how to run businesses,” said Jamie Allen Black, the CEO of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York.
She says it’s not only childcare making things more difficult for women in business now. Women-owned businesses typically have less capital funding than businesses owned by men. The status of women-owned non-profit organizations is even more perilous because their funding is largely based on donations.
“Many were on a fiscal year, so they closed their doors at the end of June and now we’re coming up at the end of December. We expect another influx of organizations to close,” she said.
“This used to be about 55% of our operating budget came from our earned revenue,” said Brodie about the restaurants' revenue.
Brodie says that money stopped for the eight months she closed both the restaurant and cafe Emma's Torch operations. Donations are down, too.
She hasn’t been able to reopen her cafe at the Brooklyn Public Library, but the Emma's Torch restaurant in Carroll Gardens just reopened for take-out last weekend. The organization is still operating two classes for the people it assists, but enrollment is down.
“Before this, each of our students graduated with three or four job offers," she said, adding, “that’s not the reality for us anymore."
Now placing her graduates will be challenging with the restaurant industry decimated. She’s just counting on the fact that people have to eat.
“In moments that are so difficult, it’s usually when you see a lot of innovation,” she said.