The restaurant industry has always been a booming one. As human beings we must eat to survive, so starting a food serving location has always been a safe bet for small-business owners—until 2020.
This once prosperous trade has been ravaged and left in shambles thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many brick and mortar eateries have either shut their doors or are struggling to stay open, one small kitchen is not only carving out a space for itself in this treacherous food market, but they are also attempting to give back to the community while doing it.
The Migrant Kitchen is a pop-up catering company that began in October 2019 when two close friends—Dan Dorado and Nas Jab—founded their own business that focuses on employing immigrants. Dan Dorado is himself the son of immigrants and a chef in New York City for over 20 years. With this knowledge under his belt, Dorado is aiming to provide immigrant frontline workers who struggle to live off minimum wage a more secure working position, while also making donations to those suffering from food insecurity, serving about 60,000 meals a week to communities in need.
Although the Migrant Kitchen does not currently possess a location of their own, they are operating out of what they call a “ghost kitchen.” This means they are functioning from another business’s unused space, in this case the Dubliner Pub located on 45 Stone Street. Dan Dorado provided amNewYork with a tour of their latest pop-up site.
“We started off as a catering company that was trying to do a lot of work with immigrants and refugees and offer people more than the minimum wage to start. The hospitality industry here in New York is pretty cutthroat and pretty tough,” Dorado said as he deep-fried chicken.
No matter how profitable the food industry was for business owners, Dorado acknowledges that workers at the bottom of the totem pole—especially immigrant employees—did not benefit from that income during the best of times. By empowering immigrants, especially those who specialize in Arab and Latin Food to create a unique cuisine, this kitchen hopes they will begin to get the recognition they deserve.
“Immigrants are what make this city so great. We want to always make sure that we empower people who would otherwise not be seen in the restaurant industry,” Dorado said, who describes his staff as individuals who hail from all around the world.
Since the Migrant Kitchen has not held a permanent location since its inception in 2019, they have been moving from place to place, from kitchen to kitchen. To Dorado and his team, this has become a running joke, telling amNewYork Metro that “the Migrant Kitchen is migrating again.” Still despite this, they founded the roving business on a principle that intends to aid those without access to food.
Through the “No one goes hungry on our watch” initiative, the Migrant Kitchen donates a meal to someone in need with every meal that is purchased. The “Buy a meal, give a meal” program has worked with several council members, food pantries, shelters, and NYCHA sites to offer a helping hand. Some of the elected supporters include Bronx Council Member Ritchie Torres, Manhattan Council Member Carlina Rivera, and Queens Council Member Daniel Dromm.
“There was always a hunger issue, but it has become so much more prominent,” Dorado said, poignantly.
The Migrant Kitchen will be serving meals out of the Dubliner Pub for at least the next six months. As much as they yearn for things to return to normal for the good of the industry as a whole, those who currently cook, fry, bake, chop, and season out of the small cookhouse on 45 Stone Street have come to terms with the fact they will to be forced to migrate once more. Dorado told amNewYork Metro that they are on the lookout for a building to call their own, but until that happens, they will be serving deliveries from their website.
You can support The Migrant Kitchen by ordering from their website, or picking up your meal at the Dubliner Pub at 45 Stone Street. If you want to eat in rather than take out, stop by The Cauldron Magical Pub next door to dine inside of an outdoor bubble designated for The Migrant Kitchen customers.