Local initiative connects home cooks with hungry customers
Parc-Extension is a destination for its delicious food. From South Asian, to Greek, to pan-continental African cuisines, the neighbourhood’s restaurants and eateries attract hungry customers from across the island.
But a new local initiative is hoping to expand on Parc-Extensions reputation for delicious food to more than just restaurants and cafes. Park-Ex Curry Kitchen recently opened as a catering service that connects customers to a group of women who cook homemade South Asian dishes.
Founded by Leonora Indira King, a McGill Ph.D. student and recent candidate for city council with Quartiers Montréal, the mutual aid initiative provides a means of financial support for women in Parc-Extension who face employment barriers because of their precarious immigration status.
With a broad menu of flavourful curries that can be either picked up or delivered, the service works with several local women who cook dishes for customers from home.
Parc-Ex Curry Kitchen
Parc-Ex Curry Kitchen has a website where customers can consult a large menu showcasing dishes made by a rotating roster of cooks. Orders are $12.50 and people can place their orders by email.
The home cooks participating in the project prepare the orders at the end of the week and customers can either pick them up on Friday afternoons at La Place Commune, on the corner Querbes and Saint-Roch or have them delivered to their home for a small fee.
With over 15 dishes on the menu, people can choose from several South Asian recipes from chana masala, a spicy chickpea curry, to palak paneer, a flavourful curry made with spinach and Indian cheese. People can also add portions to their order and have them donated to a local family in need.
Helping immigrant women
King is a community-based researcher with Concordias’ Office of Community Engagement and is also volunteers with Afrique au Féminin and Brique par Brique. The idea to start Parc-Ex Curry Kitchen came out of Kings’ experience hosting integration workshops through Afrique au Féminin with newly-arrived immigrant women.
King and one of her colleagues came up with the idea as they wanted to finish their workshops off with something fun. “I knew that all the women there were such master chefs,” said King, explaining that she had then “got a little bit of funds from Concordia to pay a woman after the end of each workshop to host a cooking class.”
“One of the big issues that came up was that these women struggle with financial autonomy and finding work,” said King, noting that there were still many barriers to employment like language, precarious immigration status, access to daycare and having to stay at home to care for children.
“It was great to empower the women and get them a little bit of money doing it,” noted King, adding that the initiative not only gave these women some extra money but also helped them develop their entrepreneurial and professional skills.
The project also offers a food-aid program, where people can buy meals for local families or seniors who are experiencing food insecurity. Customers can choose to donate half of their order to a person in need of food and Parc-Ex Curry Kitchen will deliver it to them.
“I extended it to delivering these meals to elders,” explained King, highlighting that “it was really great because not only were these elders getting free food but they were also benefited from a visit.”
She added that this aspect of Parc-Ex Curry Kitchen brought much-needed comfort to those they served. One particularly touching instance was that of a father of two who had just lost his wife to cancer.
Parc-Ex Curry Kitchen began delivering meals to the family as the children were often asking their father to cook meals their Indian mother had made them. “We were able to give him and his children meals that were not exactly similar to their moms, but somewhat similar to their moms,” said King.
Parc-Ex Curry Kitchen is another example of the vast array of mutual aid initiatives that have cropped up across Parc-Extension. Mutual aid is different from typical charity-based community initiatives as they work with the voluntary and reciprocal exchange of resources and services for mutual benefit.
King would like to see different strategies to address some of the issues in the neighbourhood. “I feel that Parc-Extension already has a lot of movements and it makes me really proud to see that in this neighbourhood people do come together to help each other and to help the community,” explained King.
“I think the next step that we want to do is move into having them run it themselves,” said King on the future of the project, adding that the entrepreneurial skills the women have acquired through Parc-Ex Curry Kitchen will help them expand.
“I encourage more residents to get out there and help others who are less fortunate and let’s work together to see how we can benefit more people together,” concluded King.