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american dream

This Brooklyn restaurant aims to 'empower refugees through culinary education'

They come with culinary traditions from their home countries — refugees from all corners of the world who are ready to learn new skills inside a Brooklyn kitchen.

Emma's Torch — named in honor of Emma Lazarus, whose poem is on the Statue of Liberty — is a restaurant that provides job training for asylum-seekers as they wait for their hearings. During each 10-week program, the refugees earn $15 an hour to learn how to cook, receiving up to 400 hours of training. "Our students are really from all over the world," Emma's Torch founder Kerry Brodie told CBS News. "You walk into our kitchen, you're gonna hear a lot of different languages and learn from a lot of different people."

Brodie opened the restaurant five years ago as a way to "empower refugees through culinary education." So far, 120 refugees have graduated from the program, representing 40 countries, including the Ivory Coast, Russia, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. Under the watchful eye of head chef Alex Harris, the students learn the basics of cooking and restaurant prep work, and volunteers from the hospitality industry come in for practice interviews, to help the students land jobs when the program is over.

Nearly every graduate has been able to find work, including Naseema Bachsi. She left Afghanistan to escape the Taliban, and when she completed the program at Emma's Torch, she was hired at the award-winning Sahadi's grocery store in Brooklyn. She is now the head chef at Sahadi's, and credits her success to Emma's Torch — the restaurant taught her "everything," she told CBS News.