CULTURAL SHAKE-UP: COOKING CLASSES TO UNITE A COMMUNITY

Photographed: Wide shot of The Youth Co-Lab’s cooking classes that will be open to the public in early 2019.

Disclaimer: the author of this article is currently involved with The Youth Co-Lab.

Knives are sharpened, recipe cards are out, and aprons are tied around the waists of those eager to embrace a new cultural experience in Cabramatta.

The non-for-profit youth organisation, The Youth Co-Lab, has trialled their first multicultural cooking class on Thursday to unite the community under the universal love of food.

The community enterprise project, named ‘The Kitchen Co-Lab’, celebrates Cabramatta’s diverse culture by bringing in chefs and home cooks from across the community to share their recipes and retell their experiences of living in Australia.

“Our purpose is to celebrate cultural diversity and promote social inclusion,” said TYC co-ordinator Tu Le.

“We found that we live in a very multicultural society, but a lot of our community lives in silo … the whole ethos of ‘food bringing people together’ is core to The Kitchen Co-Lab so it’s not only a way to share cultures and cuisines, but also to share stories.”

The class was held in the Indochinese restaurant Papa Do’s Kitchen and was run by the owner and head chef, Kelvin Do, who taught the class how to make a traditional Vietnamese slaw.

Thomas Dinh, 28, participated in the class and said that it inspired him to learn more about his family history and sustain the cultural heritage that was passed down to him from his parents.

“The Kitchen Co-Lab serves as a reminder to all of the importance of sustaining our cultural heritage for one pure reason — I would love for my kids to eat the food I grew up eating, my mother’s cooking, which is filled with rich culture, histories and stories,” he said.

“I’ve realised that I should spend more time with my family to learn about their history.”

Another participant, Jenny Nguyen, 18, said that the class was a “fun and exciting experience” that allowed her to reconnect with her community.

“The journey of making and eating food is so important and valuable to the community,” she said.

“Even though we already have several cultural festivals which host a wide array of cultural dishes, The Kitchen Co-Lab provides a more intimate environment for people to come together and bond on a more personable level.”

Cabramatta is known for its diverse community profile, with more than half of its residents born overseas and over 70 per cent speaking a language other than English at home, according to the 2016 Census.

Tu Le say that the project will bridge the divide between the ethnic hubs of Cabramatta and make a lasting impact on the community.

“Food and diversity, when you bring those together, is a celebration of what we have in Australia, and to promote that in a fun way while having it run by young, passionate people in the community is a very powerful thing.”

The first class will be held in early January 2019 and will feature the cultures and cuisines from countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Serbia and Italy.

The Youth Co-Lab was established in late 2017 by several youth leaders from the ‘Vietnamese Community In Australia’ (VCA) to empower youth in south-west Sydney and create positive social impacts in the community.

In April 2018, the non-for-profit group hosted a ‘Youth for Climate Action’ event with Sydney Alliance, Intrepid Landcare and ActionAid to inform youth of the steps they could take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment.

For more information about The Youth Co-Lab or The Kitchen Co-Lab, visit theyouthcolab.com.au, or email at enquiries@theyouthcolab.com.au for any questions.