DENVER — A restaurant and training program designed to provide commercial kitchen experience for aspiring immigrant and refugee women entrepreneurs is dishing out plates full of Hispanic flavor to the Denver community.
"I found out that Comal was looking for a cashier," said Elena Perez, who is a program participant.
Established under Focus Points Family Resource Center, Comal Heritage Food Incubator now operates out of a brand-new 2,600-square-foot space in RiNo's ArtPark.
Perez shares her family's flavors from Sonora, Mexico, alongside 10 other program participants.
"It builds a sense of stronger community. A lot of them come here and they're kind of lost. 'How do I find a new community? How do I attach?' And one of the ways is language, and of course delicious food," said Seynabou Sohai, senior manager at Focus Points.
The 36-month training program through Focus Points lets the women test their heritage recipes and grow with a restaurant mindset. Everything on the menu is made from scratch and each day you'll find dishes from Mexico, El Salvador or Venezuela.
"They're not just working the line, it puts them in a space of ownership and autonomy over their careers. It gives them a voice in a professional setting. In some cultures, they are not celebrated as women owners," said Sohai.
That is a lesson Perez hopes to pass down to her three children.
"Even though I'm almost 50 I'm doing this to let them to know it doesn't matter your age, you can do something in life for yourself, for your family, for others," said Perez.
Comal's training program has served 24 local participants and helped successfully launch four small businesses. Comal is open Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.