Kitchen stories

It was the disconnect between media representation of refugees and the reality of their day-today lives that led alumna Rebecca Stewart to start a not-for-profit social enterprise.

Rebecca Stewart and chefs from her business Pomegranate Kitchen present a range of traditional Middle Eastern cuisine.

Rebecca, who graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, was exposed to the reality of refugees’ experiences while working for the New Zealand Red Cross.

“I saw these people who really wanted to give back. They were really grateful to be here, and they didn’t want to be sitting around on the benefit. They wanted to get their new lives started and give back to the country they’d arrived in.”

Rebecca’s experience working with refugees motivated her to start Pomegranate Kitchen, a catering company that employs people from refugee backgrounds to make traditional Middle Eastern meals.

The aim of the company is not only to provide job opportunities for people who might face barriers to employment, but also to promote positive stories about refugees.

“We’re a social enterprise, so making an impact is really the main thing for us, and our goal is to improve social and financial outcomes for people from refugee backgrounds. But we’re also really deliberate and focused in the way we talk about the work that we do. The emphasis is on the people’s strengths and the different skills that they bring.”

The company, which was named one of the top five female-led Kiwi businesses by SheEO New Zealand earlier this year, has plans to diversify beyond catering in the coming months, with more pop-up events and cooking classes. Pomegranate Kitchen also gives Rebecca the chance to reconnect with her alma mater— “The University uses us for catering quite a bit, which is really nice”—as well as her hometown, Wellington.