Kin Ng (MSJA Archictects), Ze Min Xiao (Salt Lake County refugee liaison) and Thomas Lee (property owner & media consultant)

At a reception for Caleb Zigas, I had my first taste of traditional Burmese food. And I want more.

Zigas is the executive director of La Cocina, a California-based nonprofit that helps disadvantaged populations turn their passion for food into successful business ventures. Spice Kitchen Incubator in SLC welcomed Zigas to share his expertise on Feb. 13.

Attendees, like councilman Jim Bradley, were inspired by La Cocina’s success. The organization has assisted dozens of entrepreneurs, helping them not only create a better future, but build their local community.

And Spice Kitchen Incubator is following La Cocina's footsteps in SLC. They will provide refugees and other disadvantaged locals with access to a commercial kitchen and training to become successful entrepreneurs. “All disadvantaged populations, no matter who they are, have assets,” says Ze Min Xiao, the county’s refugee liaison, “and many of those assets are cooking skills.”

Local architect Kin Ng is building the kitchen pro bono. “These are the people that will bring life to our city,” he says. “Food is the one thing that transcends all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Natalie El-Deiry (International Rescue Committee) and Haymar (participant/chef)

Spice Kitchen Incubator’s most recent participant is Haymar, who came to the United States from Thailand, originally from Burma, in 2008. It was her food that I fell in love with. Her green tea cabbage salad had me eyeing the buffet table for seconds. The rich spices and crunchy vegetable combination made me a believer. Can't wait to see what she does with her Spice training.

Conctact Natalie El-Deiry here to get involved, or meet the chefs at the Downtown Farmer’s Market.

The Spice Kitchen Incubator is one of many local programs to assist refugees. Click here to read our feature story on local refugees and many programs created to assist them, which ran in our Nov/Dec 2013 issue.