The topic of immigration has become a difficult and divisive subject in our social and political climate. Finding ways to combat this is challenging, but we can all agree that food is a great way to bring people together. That’s exactly what Ross Carper and Dan Todd, an adjunct English professor at Gonzaga University, thought when combining food and cross-cultural relationships at the Feast World Kitchen located at 1321 W. Third in Spokane.
Feast World Kitchen, opening this month, will be formed from a network of cooks from Bhutan, Senegal, Syria, Iraq, Mexico, Afghanistan, Jordan, Ghana and more.
The kitchen is part of the nonprofit organization, Feast Collective, whose goal is to reduce tensions through meaningful cultural exchanges.
Feast World Kitchen is envisioned as a place for empowering immigrants and former refugees while providing small business training and opportunities. Taking up the building that was formerly Sushi Yama and before that Arctic Circle, the First Presbyterian Church will own the new location while renting to Feast World Kitchen.
After starting an international diner series in 2018, Todd, the executive director of Feast World Kitchen, began to wonder if a rotating takeout restaurant, modeled after his weekly curry business, Inland Curry pop-up, would work in Spokane. Todd envisioned an establishment offering a different ethnic cuisine each night, which would provide opportunities for several talented cooks to get into the food business.
“I wasn’t optimistic that anything would come of the idea, but I began to talk to people about it. One of the people I mentioned the idea to was Ross Carper, who owns the Compass Breakfast Wagon,” Todd said. “I knew Ross was community-minded and passionate about making refugees feel welcome in his neighborhood. So I shared the idea with him, and it turns out he was also thinking about ways to help refugees sell their food.”
Carper, who also works part time at First Presbyterian Church, contacted Todd when he purchased what was formerly Sushi Yama. They then pitched the idea of Feast World Kitchen to the church, and they were supportive.
The nonprofit created a campaign on the website Indiegogo, asking for support and donations in getting the restaurant off the ground. T-shirts, stickers, as well as catering of events are some of the things being offered in encouragement of contributing to Feast Collective.
The campaign spells out the goals of Feast World Kitchen, as well as the challenges and risks that come along with opening a restaurant of this sorts.
On its website, Feast Worl Kitchen states its belief that former refugees and immigrants in Spokane should be met with love, hospitality, celebration, friendship, opportunity, shared cultural learning and understanding. They don’t believe refugees and immigrants should be met with fear, racism, bigotry, scapegoating and suspicion. Feast World Kitchen creates a space for the former, as we try to do our part to dismantle the latter.
“We’re hoping to open the dining room sometime next year,” Todd said. “We’re also hopeful that catering opportunities will arise, and that we’ll be able to offer cooking classes as well.”
Some of the donors and board members of this project include: Sajda Nelson, a former refugee from Iraq who works as World Relief’s Friendship Center coordinator, Luke Baumgarten, a co-founder of Spokane arts nonprofit Terrain, Beth Killian, a licensed mental health counselor, Matt Goldbloom, a neighborhood/nonprofit organizer and Gonzaga alumnus, Maisa Abudayha, a former asylum-seeker from Jordan and Mediterranean chef and Tony Epefanio, the president of Greater Spokane Food Truck Association.
“I think this project is significant for a number of reasons, but perhaps most importantly, it represents an opportunity to build bridges between cultures,” Todd said. “Given our current political climate, this is one small way to show our new global citizens that they are welcome in our city, that we appreciate the gifts they bring, that we want them here. We want their food. We want their friendship.