By Jessica Edwards:
On Monday, Anthony Bourdain will be entertaining at Shea’s Performing Arts Center (see here). The last time Bourdain was here, he played on the image of Buffalo that is most expected. A City that is slow to recover from the loss of the industrial might it once showcased. During his television series No Reservations, the “Rust Belt” episode (2009), he posed the question, “What happens now, now that the factory’s closed and money never tighter?”
Buffalo has been around before the rust, and will continue to reinvent itself onward to semi-rustless pastures (some of us like a little rust!). That is because of a storyline that has been steadfast since the birth of the City. It has less to do with machinery, and more about the strength of our human capital.
The immigrant life translates similarly today as it did in the 1800s. Venturing into the unknown with nothing more than a will to learn, extraordinary work ethic, while meeting adversity with great fortitude.
There is no better place to see this than at Journey’s End (Facebook). The not-for-profit organization helps refugees transition into the community. At Journey’s End, the employment department searches locally to find potential job opportunities.
One of the most compatible occupations for these new residents has been in the restaurant industry. The organizational structure of most restaurants allows opportunity for growth. Majority of refugees start off as dishwashers and bussers, but can move up in the ranks to better paying positions.
An unexpected outcome from this type of working environment has been the creation of a built-in “language support”. The more established immigrant workers are able to become a vital resource for incoming refugees. Often times, they know very little English, so having others there who can speak their native tongue allows the training process to become easier.
In fact, the refugee community’s reputation for remarkable work ethic and reliability has been so impressive, that one of the restaurant chains has found a way to expand on this type of placement program. The Cheesecake Factory will be making the “Buffalo model” a national model for their corporation.
Food plays a central role in most cultures. Sharing a meal is a great way to lessen language barriers, and build a connection. Quarterly, Journey’s End present a “Global Feast”, where the refugees can share their culture through their traditional foods.
Coincidentally, the next Global Feast will be on Monday night (same night as Anthony Bourdain’s event). Catering this month’s dinner will be one of Buffalo’s newest and highly praised eateries, Lucy Ethiopian (see here).
Journey’s End is determined to get Mr. Bourdain to make a pit stop at the Marcy Casino before his scheduled show. A modest request for nothing more than a quick meet and greet with owners, Abba and Naima. At the casino, he can answer his own question for one way the landscape is changing in Buffalo.
The plan is to bombard Bourdain’s Twitter account with as many witty pleas from Buffalonians as possible. All are encouraged to join in on this light-hearted mission – tweet @Bourdain. If phrases such as “Journey’s End”, “Marcy Casino”, “Lucy Ethiopian”, and “Buffalo, New York” are repeated and re-tweeted… it may just be enough to woo Bourdain into seeing what a not-so-rusty Buffalo can look like.
As a resident of the ever-exciting downstate area, it might come as a surprise to him that Buffalo now holds the most ethnically diverse zip code in all of New York State. With the opening of the West Side Bazaar (see more) and initiatives like those at Journey’s End, sometimes traveling to exotic places to find new experiences isn’t always necessary. Maybe, the most adventurous thing one can do is challenge their stale dispositions.
Bourdain appreciating our heritage would be great. But, when he leaves and we are left with the labels handed to us by outsiders from decades ago… what will be our reply next time someone says “What now?”
Will we sheepishly stay anchored to the less than acclaimed narrative? Or, can we highlight for others (and see for ourselves) the vast dimensions of our City’s identity and future?
Global Feast hosted by Journey’s End Refugee Services Inc.
April 22, 2013 @ 6:00pm
RSVP: (716) 882-4963 x205 or email Bbc@jersbuffalo.com