Pomegranate Kitchen's beginning

Rebecca Stewart is the co-founder of Pomegranate Kitchen, a new catering service that’s employing people from refugee backgrounds and diversifying Wellington’s food scene.

The charitable trust employs four cooks from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia. Starting in October, they’ll be cooking up a storm as their kitchen provides affordable catering to Wellingtonians.

It’s the brainchild of Rebecca and her stepmum, Ange Wither, who is a real foodie. Combining Ange’s knowledge of catering and Rebecca’s expertise in the charity sector, the duo drew up plans for Pomegranate Kitchen.

The menu was developed by the cooks and tweaked with the help of professional chefs to make the dishes something that Kiwis would love. The food is influenced by different cuisines which reflects the diverse backgrounds of the cooks.

Finding meaningful employment

The idea for Pomegranate Kitchen came to Rebecca while she was working at Red Cross. It was there that she saw the difficulties many talented and skilled people face in finding employment when they’re from a refugee background.

“We want to overcome obstacles people face in finding work when they first arrive in New Zealand, she says, “people from refugee backgrounds have a lot to offer and enterprises like this means they can give back to their country and move on with their lives.”

From cooks, to supervisors, to designers, former refugees are involved at every level of Pomegranate Kitchen.

Judi McCallum, Red Cross Pathways to Employment Team Leader, says this initiative is important for Wellington.

“A number of our clients have completed initial health and safety training through us and have gone on to get experience in a working kitchen with Pomegranate. We look forward to seeing more people fulfilling their ambitions through the project,” she says.

Pomegranate Kitchen's future

The future might hold bright things for Pomegranate Kitchen but for now Rebecca and her colleagues are concentrating on getting themselves a permanent site.

While there are no specific plans to extend the business across New Zealand, she is open to franchise possibilities in other cities.

“Expansion would be great but we’re also really working toward making sure people from refugee backgrounds are employed at all levels in Pomegranate Kitchen," Rebecca says, “I’d love it if a former refugee was sitting in my position as General Manager in the next few years.”

In the meantime, staff are encouraging people to visit the catering company’s pop-up stall in Wellington’s city centre.

“It’s an easy way to make a difference right here in your local community,” says Rebecca, “your contribution will help to improve the social and financial outcomes for former refugees who are now Wellington locals.”

How to help

Pomegranate Kitchen has a pop-up stall at Moore Wilsons in Wellington until 23 October 2016. A PledgeMe campaign is also underway, running until the first week of November. The funding target is $15,000 which will cover the costs of setting up a permanent site for the business. For more information or to donate, visit http://pldg.me/pomegranate.