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The Economics of Being an Immigrant in NYC's Food Industry

  • Museum of Food and Drink 62 Bayard Street Brooklyn 11222 United States (map)

Immigrants now make up about 25% of New York’s labor force. Yet we know little about the economic, operational, or personal struggles of this population, especially within New York City’s food industry.

In honor of Immigrant Heritage Month, MOFAD, in collaboration with FoodtoEat, will host an open and honest discussion about the difficulties that immigrants face when owning and operating a food business, and the factors that should be considered by other immigrant entrepreneurs that are looking to open their own businesses.

We will be looking at all areas of a culinary operation that immigrants must consider: funding, staffing, location, logistics as well as the resources available to them to supplement their efforts. Join Kamola Akhmedova of Afandi Grill, Mohamed Attia of Street Vendor Project, Jenny Osman of NYCEDC, Professor Krishnendu Ray, and Deepti Sharma of FoodtoEat, for an informative conversation about the rewards and challenges of being a business owner and an immigrant in 2019.

An informal reception featuring bites provided by Kamola Akhmedova of Afandi Grill will follow the conversation.

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KAMOLA AKHMEDOVA

Kamola Akhmedova is 26 year old self-taught chef and the owner of Afandi Grill. She grew up in a family of entrepreneurs who were involved with the food industry, particularly manufacturing. Kamola holds a degree in hospitality management from Management Development Institute of Singapore in Tashkent. She moved to the U.S. in 2013 after a business trip a year earlier during which she met her future husband. She spent six months in Uzbekistan and six months in New York researching and working on the menu for Afandi Grill before deciding if she could even open a restaurant. Kamola is on a mission to popularize the Uzbek cuisine in the U.S. market. She prides herself as a momtrepreneur who is handling the very unique and cumbersome job of introducing a little-known cuisine to a competitive and saturated market. She is the main chef at her restaurant and personally creates and curates every entree on her menu. Her business opened it's doors in September 2018 and has been warmly welcomed to New York's East Village neighborhood. 

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MOHAMED ATTIA

Mohamed Attia is a Co-Director of the Street Vendor Project (SVP), which is a part of the Urban Justice Center. SVP is the only member-led organization that fights for street vendors in NYC and provides them with legal and business services and fights the government for justice for all street vendors. Mohamed immigrated to the US from Alexandria, Egypt in 2008. He worked as a food vendor for 9 years, joined SVP as a member in 2012 and was elected to the board in 2014. He served on the board until March 2018, when he joined the staff as a co-director. He joined SVP in the successful campaign to lower the fines imposed on street vendors and helped SVP in launching the Lift The Cap campaign in 2014, a campaign to increase the number of vending permits in the city.

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JENNY OSMAN

Jenny Osman is a first-generation New Yorker who has worked in food, from cooking on the line to her current role managing a food policy program for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), for the past ten years. As Director of the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) Program, Jenny works to help supermarket operators and food store owners to renovate or build in underserved neighborhoods of the five boroughs. Access to fresh food is a right and Jenny is dedicated to supporting small business owners to operate successful food retail businesses that form the fabric of strong communities in New York City. 

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KRISHNENDU RAY

Krishnendu Ray is the Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU. He was a faculty member and the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts at The Culinary Institute of America. He is the author of The Migrant’s Table (2004), The Ethnic Restaurateur (2016), and the co-editor of Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food and South Asia (2012). He is member of the editorial collective of Gastronomica. His most recent work is on street vending in global cities with attention to questions of law, livelihood, and liveliness of cities.  

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DEEPTI SHARMA

A lifelong entrepreneur, Deepti is the CEO and Founder of FoodtoEat, a community-minded catering concierge service. She started FoodtoEat in 2011 to connect immigrant, women and minority-owned food vendors to opportunities for growth - ultimately helping them strengthen their own business skills. FoodtoEat helps businesses feed employees great food and build stronger & more diverse work cultures. She is also a Co-Founder of Bikky, a platform solving customer engagement for restaurants.

As a mother and small business owner, Deepti is a vocal advocate for policies that benefit these communities. She served on the Board for the Business Center for New Americans, a non-profit that encourages immigrant entrepreneurship by providing micro-loans and financial education. She also writes about how companies can modernize motherhood in the workplace, and mentors female entrepreneurs as part of the NYC Mayor’s WE NYC initiative.

Deepti is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, a Forbes 30 Under 30 alumnae, and an avid runner. She lives in Queens with her husband (Abhinav Kapur) and two children (Zubin & Chetan).