Blog by LSSNCA guest blogger, Harley Dority
Noobtsaa Philip Vang, Foodhini’s founder, says that the venture to create and share world cuisines with the DC Metro Area is ultimately a personal one, given that his family came to the U.S. from Laos as refugees during the Laotian civil war.
While they may have been lucky to leave Laos at such a time, arriving in a new country posed its own challenges. With limited education and English language skills, Noobtsaa’s mother worked multiple odd jobs to provide for her family. Despite the obstacles she faced, his mother still made time to cook incredible, home-cooked Hmong food. Food brought his family and his community together, offering solace where cultural, financial, and educational barriers to opportunity existed, and are evident in refugee and immigrant communities.
This concept of food and community spurred a larger idea and Foodhini was born. What if those who came to the U.S., fleeing war, persecution, violence, or a lack of economic opportunity, had the ability to cook and serve incredible dishes from their countries while earning a sustainable, living wage and engaging with a community that uplifts and celebrates its culture, identity, and food?
Noobtsaa wanted to create a space that highlights all the things immigrants and refugees bring to the table, literally and figuratively. So, where to start? In partnering with local resettlement agencies around the DMV region, Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area being one of them, Foodhini identifies candidates who know how to cook their country’s food and want to become involved in the initiative.
What makes this venture so unique is how truly authentic it is. The goal is for those candidates to create dishes that are their own, drawing from their knowledge and expertise of their country, the traditional methods of cooking, spices, and more. There is no Americanizing of dishes to appeal to a specific audience.
The diverse menu Foodhini offers is key and its customers love to connect with the food and the people more than anything. Individuals from all over the world work not only in the kitchen but also on the operational side of things, making it an opportunity not just for those who know how to cook. Language is also not an important factor in the hiring process. Connection is more important. Is the person looking to learn and grow? These are the biggest takeaways for Foodhini, as it has grown from an idea into a thriving business.
Chef Mina, for example, worked for Foodhini from 2017 through 2020, delighting customers with her authentic Iranian cuisine. Originally an LSSNCA client, Mina and her family have since purchased a home in the area. Opportunities like Mina’s highlight the importance of a living wage and why a supportive and welcoming community matter so much.
Amid COVID-19, the food industry has been hit hard. The best way to support Foodhini and its incredible chefs and employees is through online orders, virtual catering, and taking advantage of their Taste the World weekly subscription. In placing an order, you support a local business doing critical work and make an impact in the lives of refugees and immigrants from across the globe.
If you live in the DMV and are interested in tasting the delicious food of Foodhini, you can order a food delivery, subscribe to their weekly Taste the World subscription, purchase a gift card, or hire them to cater your next (socially distant) event here.
For more information on how to hire LSSNCA refugee and immigrant clients visit our website and fill out our employment inquiry form. If you are a refugee, SIV holder, asylee, or protected status immigrant living in Maryland or Virginia and are within 5 years of arrival/status provision and you need help finding employment, check out LSSNCA’s workforce development program.