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The Vancouver-based cook and community facilitator understands the capacity food has to empower people and bring them together.
Founder, Happy Woman Kitchen, Vancouver
Wendy Au Yeung may not be a professionally trained chef (I just love to cook and I think I do it fairly well, she says), but she understands the capacity food has to empower people and bring them together. It's why she launched Happy Woman Kitchen, a culinary-based social enterprise that offers employment opportunities to marginalized women in Vancouver's Strathcona and Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods.
The non-profit was founded last summer when Mrs. Kuang, a friend and neighbour of Au Yeung's who immigrated to Vancouver from Zhenjiang more than two decades ago, was invited by Au Yeung to sell her homemade pork-and-chive dumplings at the Strathcona Artisan Market. Au Yeung saw the chance to involve other members of the community and, within a few days, the pair were joined by a group of Mrs. Kuang's friends at a local community space, where they wrapped made-from-scratch dumplings and whipped up sauces for chilled noodle bowls.
Soon, the smiling popos were selling sago soup, Hong Kong-style curry fish balls and other street food-inspired Chinese dishes at a series of seasonal pop-ups in Chinatown. The money earned at the events goes directly to the grandmas or to purchase equipment and perishable items for future pop-ups. The idea is to give them the ability to sell at different markets, explains Au Yeung. I want to give these women as much ownership as possible and only fill in where needed. Empowerment is key.
This summer, Au Yeung hopes to partner with other low-income, immigrant and refugee women in the area, and offer them temporary work. It's not about centring me or my product, she says. It's a way to centre women on the margins and their talent, contributions and food.