Feeding community spirit in Leith

These are women who have volunteered their lives away, now they are finding that skills they take for granted could actually be used to get a job. Trishna Singh, Sikh Sanjog

Food features in many of the stories on the Wall of Success. But this week we pay tribute to two local enterprises that combine home cooking with great community spirit – and more than a pinch of entrepreneurial spice. Welcome to Punjabi Junction and the World Kitchen in Leith.

Perhaps we should begin with a disclaimer. Leith Open Space is privileged to be among the founder members of the World Kitchen in Leith (WKiL), a voluntary group which launched with a multicultural spread during summer thunderstorms in the Leith Festival of 2009. Punjabi Junction began life a little more formally (or at least undercover) in 2010 as Punjab’n De Rasoi in the community cafe near the foot of Leith Walk.

The opening of the cafe was the fulfillment of years of dedicated work for Trishna Singh and Sikh Sanjog. As she commented when we first visited the cafe seven years years ago, The day that sign went up was when I realised we had finally done it. It is a huge achievement for the women of our community.” [See story HERE]

There are clear differences between these two warmhearted projects.  The women of Punjabi Junction run a social enterprise which means meeting the daily challenge of sustaining a viable small business in a harsh economic climate.  At the Side by Side Gathering in December 2016, Trishna Singh underlined the need for investment funding to support such innovative projects which enrich local life while developing skills and opportunities.

In contrast, the members of World Kitchen in Leith are part of an informal voluntary venture, catering at local events, which means sharing skills and recipes in their spare time – while also meeting demands of the day job.

World Kitchen in Leith team at work in Out of the Blue
Collaborative working, preparing multicultural brunch in Out of the Blue kitchen –

Rooted in community

Yet both WKiL and Punjabi Junction are founded on a firm belief in the importance of community and that also has deep roots in the cultural diversity of Leith. And both provide opportunities for developing skills and confidence.  (Note, below, the shared priorities for collaborative working.)

The idea for World Kitchen in Leith began with Gurmit Singh, another active member of the Sikh community in Leith who was then a member of Leith Festival Programming Committee. Keen to promote community integration, Gurmit sent an invitation to every minority ethnic community group he could think of inviting them to take part in a cookery demonstration to celebrate their culture.

First to respond was Mridu Thanki, a keen vegetarian cook in the Hindu tradition, working on her first cookery book (Mridu has moved to live in London but still keeps in touch). Leith Open Space met Gurmit and Mridu in Out of the Blue to write their story for our blog…and somehow ended up joining the WKiL team! [Much more about WKiL HERE and HERE]

 “Food can be a creative art as well as a necessity of life. But it is also a social event.  Food not only brings pleasure, it brings people together.” Mridu Thanki.

Punjabi Junction is open Monday 12 pm to 5.45pm (cookery classes 6pm-8pm), and Tuesday – Saturday 12-10pm [See HERE for new menu]

World Kitchen in Leith produces imaginative multicultural menus, catering for local events and organisations. 

For more about Side by Side, The Gathering see Facebook.com/SBSGathering

Sikh Sanjog Punjabi Junction logo

1. Punjabi Junction is run by Sikh Sanjog for the community. Our vision is to inspire and empower Sikh and other Minority Ethnic women to advance their own life opportunities, through the building of skills, confidence and social inclusion.

2. Since 2010 the social enterprise community care has generated jobs for over 150 women from Sikh and other ethnic and white Scottish backgrounds. We work alongside Learn Direct/Remploy/Intowork/SCVO/ and Edinburgh Community Food

3: Celebrating South Asian-Chinese heritage – hosted MECCOP’s Exhibition in Punjabi Junction Café, an inspiring intergenerational oral history connecting families and creating links with wider community

Priorities for future:

1. Opportunity for women working together

2. Need for social investment fund

World Kitchen in Leith

1: Cookery demonstrations for a Sheltered Housing collaborative memory project in North Edinburgh

2: Catering for 200 people at Elrec’s multicultural eco celebration as part of Communities For Conservation project 2017

3: Being Human Festival 2016 – planning and providing a meal for an event exploring issues of food, faith, identity and taboos

Priorities for future

1. Celebrate cultural diversity with fun, through cooking and sharing food

2. Collaborate with other community groups for covered market in Leith

Spread at the Open Space meeting
Punjabi Junction contributed delicious pakoras to the Open Space community discussion events




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