Dine and Learn
The restaurants and food stores opened by migrant entrepreneurs provided opportunities for consumers to learn about and delight in a wide variety of ingredients and dishes. They helped expand eaters’ palates and foster deeper understanding of diverse culinary techniques and traditions while also tantalizing their taste buds.
You have to link the culture to your food and then you’ll open up the world.
Paul Ma emigrated from China to the United States around 1964. After pursuing a career as a medical statistician, he opened a Chinese grocery store in New York. His natural ability to connect with customers led him to open a Chinese restaurant, where guests learned about the food while they ate. His “Dine and Learn” events introduced the public to traditional and new Chinese food, history, and culture.
From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, the Dine and Learn classes at Paul Ma’s China Kitchen, outside of New York City, introduced hundreds of diners to regional Chinese cooking and culture.
Tim Ma, Paul Ma’s nephew, is a chef and restaurateur in Washington, D.C. Tim’s early experiences with food date back to his childhood surrounded by the bustling activity of the Ma family’s restaurants. Tim draws inspiration from his Chinese heritage along with his French culinary training and fuses the two creatively in his cooking.
I think of myself as a culinary ambassador.
Sileshi Alifom immigrated to Washington, D.C., in 1970 and eventually opened his restaurant, DAS Ethiopian. Inspired by his first career in the hotel service industry, he adopted an international look and feel in his restaurant, in hopes of making it welcoming to global clientele.
Food at home was also a reflection of my fused reality: we ate tamales for special occasions . . . and Carolina hot dogs every chance we got.
Sandra Gutierrez was born in the United States, grew up in Guatemala, migrated back to the United States as an adult, and settled in North Carolina. There she learned regional Southern food traditions from her neighbors and in turn taught them about diverse Latin cuisines. In demonstrations, classes, and lectures, she teaches others about the joys of combining two different traditions of cooking.
Sandra Gutierrez brought these ceramic dishes, metal comal, skillet, and butterfly napkin ring from Guatemala and used them with the Jell-O mold and biscuit cutter—essential tools for any Southern kitchen—in her cooking classes where she fuses Latin and Southern food traditions.