Blending food, community and culture

WCCCC bridging generational and cultural gaps with cooking program

Vilay Soysanavh proudly displays her Vietnamese salad rolls during the Multicultural and Multigenerational Cooking program.

Photo by Roi Jones

Large ethno-cultural events such as Folkarama provide people with an opportunity to interact with different cultures, but sometimes it can be the small and sweet (and savoury, in this case) events that create a lasting impact.

One such event is the Multicultural and Multigenerational Cooking program by the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre (WCCCC).

Hosted bi-monthly on Saturdays at the WCCCC, this free cooking program offers a unique communal aspect.

WCCCC vice-president Malinda Lee says, “this is where different generations gather, work together and learn recipes from different cultures together. This is not only for the Chinese community, but for all of Winnipeg.”

Offering this free program requires a collaborative community effort from both volunteers and government assistance.

“We applied for the New Horizons for Seniors grant, the government approved us, and now we have this free program,” Lee says.

“Our co-ordinator’s summer job was also sponsored through Canada Summer Jobs, so our program is fully sponsored by the government.”

This program thrives on both communication and the effort of its leadership.

“Early on, we asked our class what they want to make,” Lee says. “They gave (Manitoba Chinese Youth Committee’s human resources leader) Jimmy Le a long list, and that is when we started to look for instructors to make these items. In our four meetings, we have had a retired chef, a retired entrepreneur, a cooking specialist and a sushi chef apprentice under Izakaya Edokko as instructors,” she says.

Among the leadership team is Yanisa Wu, who says this program is essential to the surrounding community.

“Chinatown does not offer a lot of regular programming,” they say.

“A lot of people look at Chinatown and comment that there is not much to do. So, this program is revitalizing the community, bringing people back into this community and working together with older people, which is at the core of Chinese culture.”

Wu emphasizes that this program has provided them a way to reclaim their cultural roots.

“When I sat in a class, I found that I was learning more of the Chinese language, and being born here, that was lost,” they say.

“Chinese cooking is also lost, as both my parents were taught to make Western food, and the Chinese cooking practices were not passed down to me. So coming to this class is sparking interest in my culture, and I know a lot of people will relate to that.”

Program co-ordinator Jimmy Le notes that the WCCCC is making an effort to collaborate with other cultural groups, highlighting events like the Winnipeg Chinatown Street Festival, Folkarama and even school field trips.

“In 2017, a group of Ukrainian kids visited us on a field trip to learn about the Chinese culture,” he says.

“We set up different stations showing our language, history, games and other cultural aspects. So we are open to working with other cultures and furthering that cultural connection in Winnipeg.”

The cooking program takes place on the second floor of the WCCCC building at 180 King St. This event is free and happens every second Saturday (the next session is Sept. 28) from 1 to 4 p.m. Send an email to [email protected] on the Thursday prior to the next session to reserve seating.

Published in Volume 74, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 19, 2019)

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