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Our Story

Thanks for joining us. Let’s unite at the table.

Peter commemorated the 10th anniversary of his mother’s death in 2018. His mother and father were both immigrants, but his mother was a chain immigrant, brought to America by her aunt. The anniversary of his mom’s passing coincided with a shocking surge of negative rhetoric against immigrants.

That’s when the idea of Immigrant Food began to form. It’s a restaurant that celebrates the successes of past immigrants and positively impacts today’s immigrants who – like Gerda and Edmund, Peter’s parents– have come to America to remake their lives. This is our small contribution to the fight against a new intolerance in America.

Serendipity brought us together. Like so many others, Enrique’s story highlights how new value gets built in the United States. After living (and baking, basting, chopping, and frying) in Caracas, Barbados, Dubai and Hong Kong, Enrique is a chef who combines cultures, tastes and spices. Enrique’s fine dining restaurant was named by Esquire as the #1 best new restaurant in America, and by the Washington Post as the #1 restaurant in Washington in 2019.

We had some conceptual issues to resolve. First up was the question of whether Immigrant Food should serve authentic dishes from the cuisines of America’s largest immigrant groups or, instead, offer fusion bowls that crashed together the best of each gastronomy. Anybody who knows Enrique can imagine how that argument ended. You’ll get what we mean when you check out Immigrant Food bowls like the one Enrique named Mumbai Mariachi.

Then, we had to figure out how to both celebrate yesterday’s immigration and become immediately helpful to today’s immigrants. Our business had to create its own definition of corporate social responsibility. Immigrant Food’s business plan was built by ‘layering’ multiple points of connectivity between the community and the cause. That meant reaching out to the NGOs doing the hard work and asking them how we could have real impact on their work. They need more visibility, more volunteers, more resources, and more space to hold meetings. These impact partnerships are central to Immigrant Food’s business model; we want to raise public awareness of their work and support them by channeling donors, volunteers and providing space to meet special needs.

The building blocks fell into place when Téa Ivanovic and Frank Ortiz joined the company. Téa is our hyper-talented communications director. She calls herself an “immigrant²” because she was born in Belgium to Yugoslav parents and then came to America to play Division 1 college tennis and built a life here. She is responsible for the strategic communications and policy backbone of our company. Frank Ortiz is from El Salvador. He is the director of operations. Frank is a pro who has been working in the business since the opening of Jaleo in Washington in 1993. His operations capacity and understanding of today’s competitive restaurant landscape is second to none.

That’s how Immigrant Food came to life. An idea that a great team made happen.

Thanks for joining us. Let’s unite at the table.

 

Enrique and Peter

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