Comal Heritage Food Incubator, a restaurant and training program by Focus Points Family Resource Center, celebrated its fifth anniversary in October.
Comal began with a group of Mexican women from the neighboring community who sought out a program to learn valuable restaurant industry skills to start their own businesses. Since its inception, Comal has hosted cohorts of recent immigrants and refugees from Ethiopia, Syria, Venezuela, Mexico, and more, providing the women the opportunity to earn while studying and sharing the recipes of their home countries.
The anniversary party included live music, dance performances, karaoke, raffle prizes, and a four course meal including chips, salsa, and guacamole; bolillos de pollo/bolillos vegetarianos; pozole de puerco/pozole vegetariano; and churros. In keeping with tradition, Comal’s Anniversary Party was free of charge (and delicious!) with optional donations on site.
Guests heard from speakers, graduates from the program, while enjoying their food on picnic tables under the Denver evening sun.
It wasn’t just an anniversary for Comal; the restaurant is also celebrating resilience and survival.
“It is a celebration of resilience,” explained Matthew Vernon, Director of Social Enterprise for Focus Points Family Resource Center, referring to the restaurant’s survival during the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant was closed for 95 days during the early stages of the pandemic. To keep the restaurant alive, Comal offered Soup Thursdays, where patrons could order online and pick up their choice of two soups. Then they turned their efforts toward preparing and delivering food for homebound families via the Denver Metro Emergency Food Network, which to date has served more than 326,000 meals. It also offered Comal@Home, a series of traditional Mexican meals to be picked up and prepared at home.
For the past five years, Comal has helped many immigrant and refugee women learn how to build a successful restaurant. The hands-on program provides learning in the areas of marketing, packaging, food buying, cost and profit analysis, customer service, and more. Comal’s success with helping the immigrant and refugee community has motivated the restaurant to apply for accreditation under the American Chef Federation.
Since the recent resettlement plan for Afghan refugees in Colorado, Vernon is excited to see how many new members will be welcomed by the Comal Heritage Food Incubator. He is also looking forward to reaching out to refugees from Burma and the Central Republic of Congo.
Comal was recently featured in the New York Times as one of the best restaurants in the nation. This ecstatic news reaffirms that experiencing dishes from different cultures is great for society. “We all eat better when we experience different foods and culture,” Vernon shares.
For more information, visit comaldenver.com.
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