“Nothing brings people together like good food, says Yamini in a big smile. In our Indian families, we always welcome guests, it’s a blessing to share and add more plates, Do you like Indian food Beti? Okra, patato dumpling? I hope you always cook with the freshest ingredients, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cilantro.. Beti you are still here?
How I wish I had been ‘there’, in New York City, savouring Chef Yamini’s delicacies..My mouth was watering when she described her dal, how she cooked the okra and confectioned the shira.. If only I could just close my eyes and appear in her kitchen!
From Mumbai to New York City …
Yamini started cooking when she was 10, her Dad as a mentor. No cooking book, no food blog, a real person to person tradition. Cooking at the time was the best way to connect generations.. “But as soon as I got married, I had to work with my inlaws business. Life was hard back then, we could not make ends meet, so we eventually decided to follow our eldest daughter’s footsteps and join her in the States. I thought that it had to be easier than to remain in Mumbai”
In the city that never sleeps, her kitchen table looked too big. Winters were freezing cold. Yamini became a single mother of 3 daughters, juggling between her work at the jewelry factory, and making some extra money by cooking for her colleagues.
“Even in New York, which is incredibly diverse, there’s often very little meaningful interaction between immigrants and non-immigrants, or other immigrant groups, and the interactions that occur are mostly service-based, like a guy at a bodega or a server in a restaurant,” explains Artist Lisa Gross, who founded the League of Kitchens.
Book your trips at the League of Kitchens
The League of Kitchens is a very special cooking school, that spreads migrants skills and unique savoir faire, “an immersive culinary adventure in NYC where immigrants teach cooking workshops in their homes“.
” Working for the League of Kitchens has been such a blessing” continues Yamini.
Like the Indian Chef, most of the cooking instructors have never taught before. But they all have been cooking for decades for their own large families back home, and are indeed talented. Every month, they open their own kitchens to a small group of guests eager to learn how to chop and spice it like a native.
Yamini shares her enthusiasm and passion for cooking with all her colleagues from the League of Kitchens. If you fancy Argentinian cooking, book a session with Mirta. Dolly’s food will drive you to Trinidad, Despina to Greece, Asfari to Bangladesh, Sunny to Korea, Namida to Afghanistan. I’ll make sure I also visit Jeanette’s Lebanese kitchen next time I am visiting the Big Apple.
Spreading culture and understanding through food
Those women are comfortable in their domestic spaces and definitely don’t experience cooking as a burden, but a strong link that ties them to their to their old home. Sharing their passion has changed the way they see themselves. They are in charge again.
“ I feel like I’m teaching my own children, says Yamini. They make me so proud of myself, it’s a God’s gift to share your knowledge with friends. They are genuinely interested in India, we cook together, we eat together, we all learn together. I love every class, because we are always having fun. I am glad my mother in law can not see them making rotis, some would have sore marks’ she laughs. “My home is alive again!”
Booking your seat at the League of Kitchens and you won’t be taking a mere cookery class. You’ll experience sharing traveling exchanging. It should not take you long to realise that those Chef’s aprons are just capes on backwards 😉