In 2019, Afaf Bayoud, her husband Jehad, and their four children became Canadian citizens. That year, the family hosted their first EdmontonEats event.
Bayoud says, “I was the first host of an EdmontonEats event in 2019. It was hosted by NAIT at Ernest’s. I worked along with the students at the Culinary Arts program to teach them how to prepare authentic Libyan recipes.”
EdmontonEats began as a social enterprise, evolving out of Communities United, a collective of individuals and organizations working to end poverty in five northeast Edmonton neighbourhoods. Maureen Murphy Black, the founder of the project, says that EdmontonEats emerged out of “her interests in learning about new cultures, hearing people’s stories, [and] building welcoming communities.” She also credits support from friends, neighbours, businesses, and service providers.
Murphy Black continues, “The plan was to grow EdmontonEats into a self-sustaining social enterprise that contributes to an understanding of the cultural diversity of Edmonton, to share food and cultural experiences, and to create a unique revenue stream for families who have arrived in Edmonton as immigrants and refugees.”
Bayoud says that she “became involved with EdmontonEats so that we could be more connected with our neighbourhood and get involved in our community.”
The project existed as a pilot program through the Bannerman Community League from 2019 to 2022. In August of 2022, Murphy Black and Bayoud incorporated EdmontonEats and became EdmontonEats Catering. The start up social enterprise was so successful that it became a self-sustaining business. Eighty per cent of the revenue goes to the cultural hosts – the people who share information about their culture and who prepare the meals.
Bayoud, co-owner of EdmontonEats Catering says, “It is exciting to be building a company that welcomes other newcomers and gives all of us an opportunity to share our cultures and foods with each other and our guests. In Libya, making a thoughtful, elaborate meal for guests of honour is an act of great respect. We want to honour our guests by creating authentic menus.”
EdmontonEats continues to welcome new cultural hosts. Murphy Black and Bayoud meet with potential new hosts to find out how they want to participate and why they want to join the enterprise. After the new host prepares their favourite dish for the organization’s members to try, the dish can then become part of the menu.
Both cultural hosts and other volunteers are welcome. Non-cook volunteers can contribute their skills by assisting with the website and marketing events, helping out in the kitchen for events, assembling the cultural boxes and kits, and driving hosts and food to events as needed.
Cultural hosts gain the opportunity to learn how to work in a commercial kitchen, and are supported to take their Food Handler Certificate. Because the cultural hosts are newcomers, working at EdmontonEats is often their first paid work experience in Canada, which creates a work history with Canada Revenue Agency and provides a reference when applying for other jobs. The hosts also work with other guest chefs to learn about foods from many cultures.
Customers of EdmontonEats get to learn about foods from around the globe, from spices and preparation techniques to cooking tips and tricks. They also make connections with individuals from many parts of the world and hear about their life experiences. And of course, they get to eat delicious food while contributing to the sustainability of a business that is making a difference for newcomers and refugees.
Get involved with EdmontonEats by calling 780.893.8979 or by emailing email@example.com. If you would like to sample some food at one of their events or at home, visit edmontoneatsyeg.ca.
Rebecca has attended free concerts as bouncer, juggled plates as a waitress, completed a degree in microbiology, laboured in the oilfield cleaning storage tanks, and worked as an editor for the Government of Alberta. She has been a full-time photographer for the last 15 years, is exploring writing, and is co-parenting four nearly-grown children.