Award Winner brings together communities through cuisine

Venkat Raman

Auckland, February 17, 2019

Visitors to one of the segments of the ‘Auckland Fringe Festival’ next weekend will have opportunities to attend two community workshops conducted by an expert on culinary art and several other fields of activity.

Renu Sikka

Renu Sikka will conduct the Workshops, one each at the Onehunga Community Centre (located at 83 Church Street, Onehunga) on Saturday, February 23, 2019 and at the Wesley Community Centre (located at 740 Sandringham Road Extension in Mt Roskill) on Sunday, February 24, 2019. The Workshops will be held on both days from 11 am to 3 pm.

Social Enterprise

The Workshops, leading up to a Photo Exhibition, will be held under her not-for-profit social enterprise called, ‘Our Stories on Plate.’

A team leader and teacher at the Henderson Primary School in West Auckland, she is a multitalented woman- a creative chef, writer, publisher, entrepreneur and Yoga teacher.

She said that ‘Our Stories on Plate,’ aims to empower migrant and refugee women through culinary art.

Empowering migrants and refugees

“This enterprise provides an effective platform for migrant and refugee women to build connections through food, sharing recipes, storytelling and recounting experiences and developing better understanding of other cultures, cuisine and cooking techniques. ‘Our Stories on Plate,’ also helps communities through supper clubs, pop-up dinners and weekend workshops,” she said.

Ms Sikka said that the workshops, called, ‘MindFeast,’ include creative writing, poetry and photography.

‘MindFeast’ empower women

Ado Mizero, a migrant from Africa, who attended her Workshops, said that each of them is a ‘great balance of worshipping, meeting new people and sharing incredible food.’

“Renu is an enthusiastic and encouraging facilitator as well as a participant like any of us. It was a fantastic experience,” she said.

Building connections

Ms Sikka said that Food has the power to bring people together.

“Eating together and sharing stories can build relationships, creating more diverse, connected, inclusive and welcoming communities. Breaking Bread is one of the simplest and often most effective forms of diplomacy,” she said.

Culinary Art transcends nationalities

She believes that cooking and eating is a part of the social fabric that underpins our day-to-day lives.

“All conversations with our colleagues, family and friends, or even strangers always include food. Sharing our personal stories through food connects people diverse cultural backgrounds,” she said.

Third World Cooking

Ms Sikka is currently working on a ‘Pop-up Dinner’ series called ‘Third World Cooking’ through which she hopes to use the power of a good meal to bring women together and share their stories through a Cook Book, which she hopes to publish soon.

A display of ingredients and spices

“The menu for this series will be based on dishes contributed by migrant and refugee women as a tribute to those who were displaced from their own country due to conflicts or any other reasons,” she said.

Awards and Citations

Encouraged by the support that she receives from Auckland City Council, Creative Communities NZ  and Local board funding, Ms Sikka has been organising workshops and community events which are also attracting women from the Pacifica, Maori and other ethnicities.

She recently won the ‘Women’s Fund Award’ of Auckland Founda+ion and was nominated for a Sector Award by ‘Refugees as Survivors New Zealand’ Mangere in recognition of her services to the migrant and refugee communities.

For more information on ‘Our Stories on Plate,’ and to register for Workshops, please contact Renu Sikka on 027-3536337.

(All pictures supplied by Renu Sikka)

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