Eat and Drink

A Montreal Food Delivery Service Hires Immigrants & Refugees To Cook Homemade Specialties

"Female empowerment, supporting people in difficulty and sharing good food."
A Montreal Food Delivery Service Hires Immigrants & Refugees To Cook Homemade Specialties

If typical food delivery app dishes are getting stale, there's a new way for Montrealers to break the cycle of ordering from the same chain restaurants. And it'll make you feel good too!

Food'elles is a social enterprise that will soon offer eco-responsible takeout and delivery prepared by immigrant, refugee and First Nations women — allowing you to experience the world of food from the comfort of your home.

Editor's Choice: A Montreal Company Is Selling PPE For Your Dessert To Protect Your Most Valuable Assets

Why was this project founded?

Founder Tsahaï Papatakis, the daughter of a Greek-Ethiopian father and a Franco-Italian mother, told MTL Blog that Food'elles is a combination of feminism, inclusion and cultural diversity.

"I wanted to ... set up a project that encourages the empowerment of [disadvantaged] people by giving them the tools to grow and gain confidence," she said.

Amandream

Papatakis said she decided to hire immigrant women and refugees for the Food'elles kitchen because they're under-valued cooks whose skills can add to Quebec's rich and multicultural food scene. 

"[Female immigrants and refugees] often cook in the privacy of their homes, for their families, when they could use this talent to find their place in Quebec society," she said. 

"They are the worthy heirs of ancestral culinary traditions and this richness is not highlighted enough."

The goal of Food’elles, Papatakis explained, is to create a bridge between the women's communities and the "host society."

How are chefs and the dishes chosen?

Tsahaï Papatakis

Saira Amin, a Food'elles chef and a Bahrani immigrant who has lived in Montreal for the last 24 years, told MTL Blog that arriving with her child to Quebec's harsh winter climate and unique culture was a tough adjustment.

Amin later joined The South Asian Women’s Community Centre in the Plateau, taking a French-language course for six months and cooking regularly for the centre.

The centre facilitated contact between Amin and Papatakis, which is how she came to join the Food'elles team.

Amin believes that projects like Food'elles allow women from immigrant, refugee and Indigenous backgrounds to acquire and develop new skills.

"Also [they help in] promoting cultural diversity, participating in female empowerment, supporting people in difficulty and sharing good food — and [it] has solidarity at the centre of it," she said. 

Tsahaï Papatakis

The Food'elles team decides on the content of the menu in collaboration with its chefs, according to Papatakis.

"After tasting the specialties of our chefs, we select the dishes that seem most appropriate for our menu. We make sure to offer dishes that meet a wide variety of diets — mainly vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free," said Papatakis.

The Food'elles chefs are cooking at Centrale Culinaire, a collaborative kitchen in the Mile End, until they get their own kitchen. They also used the kitchen at Joverse, an Old Montreal restaurant, for a large holiday order.

Is the service available on food delivery apps?

Papatakis said Food'elles wants to maintain its independence so it will not be offering its services through third-party delivery apps like Uber Eats and Foodora, which take up to 30% of profits in commission fees. 

"We want as much of the money paid by our customers as possible to be reinvested in activities that serve our social mission," she said. 

Food'elles will offer specials that change regularly with vegetarian and vegan options. It asks customers to order in advance for delivery the following week.

It also offers catering for corporate and other occasions.

Papatakis said Food'elles is in the process of creating its own website where customers will be able to order its food.

The website is expected to be functional by February 2021. 

In the meantime, Papatakis has launched a crowdfunding campaign with the objective of raising $10,000. If the goal is reached, Food'elles will get an additional $10,000 thanks to the Mille et UN fund for youth.