Restaurant owner starting culinary school for refugees
Apr 14, 2023, 11:21 AM | Updated: 11:52 am
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah entrepreneur is creating a space for new restaurant workers to learn the craft.
Lavanya Mahate knows the art of Indian cuisine and she understands the challenges immigrants face when moving to a new country. So, she’s combining her love of food and service to help Utah refugees.
“From the age of six, I remember cooking in my family kitchen. We had a lady who helped us with our cooking as is very common in India. She’s the one that taught me how to make spice blends and make sweets.”
The lessons learned in the kitchen have served her well. After moving to Utah in 2001, she embarked on a journey which took her to graduate school at the University of Utah and two-year internship at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.
“After that, the Salt Lake Chamber sponsored me for a visa. I worked there for 8 years,” she said.
Mahate started her own line of spice blends at the farmers market and then in 2011, opened her first Saffron Valley restaurant – featuring authentic, one-of-a kind Indian dishes. There are now five in the Salt Lake Valley.
“People have helped me get to where i am today and I feel so blessed.”
Mahate’s latest venture allows her to pay it forward. In the back of her Sugar House restaurant, she’s building the RISE Culinary Institute. This is where refugees will get three months of hands-on culinary training, for free.
“And then we have local partners, restaurant partners who will take these trainees as interns a paid internship for six months.”
It’s her solution to helping with the labor shortage in the restaurant industry and supporting refugees, like her who want to be a part of their new community.
“We want RISE to be a safe space where they can come and learn the skills, not only the hard skills of culinary training,” Mahate said. “But also, gain the confidence to go out and find their voice, find their place. Just live their dreams.
The weather has delayed construction on RISE, but it’s expected to open sometime in May so trainees can get to work.