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Employer Highlight: JAM Culinary Concepts

Daniel Martinez (pictured) is the Executive Corporate Chef at Vero Amore, one of JAM Culinary Concept's restaurants. JAM Culinary Concepts is a proud partner of the IRC in the effort to place newly arrived refugees in employment.

Photo: Jacqui Marzocca

The International Rescue Committee works closely with local employers to help refugees become self-sufficient through employment. Employment, and the financial stability it provides, are integral components in helping refugees successfully rebuild their lives and provide for their families in the Unites States.

JAM Culinary Concepts is a valued partner of the Tucson IRC. They own and operate a plethora of businesses in Tucson, as well as two in Utah. JAM Culinary Concepts owns Vero Amore, at both Plaza Palomino and Dove Mountain, Noble Hop in Oro Valley, Sazerac Creole Kitchen & Cocktails at St. Philip’s Plaza, and Twisted Tandoor. The company also owns Tinwell and Yoko Ramen in Salt Lake City, Utah. In Tucson, the IRC is honored to work closely with Daniel Martinez, Vero Amore’s Corporate Executive Chef, to place refugees into employment through restaurant work in Tucson.

JAM Culinary Concepts has witnessed many of its refugee employees succeed in their roles, as well as advance in the company. “The individuals introduced to us by the IRC have proven generally efficient and eager to do their jobs well and correctly,” Martinez says. “Many individuals who began with our company in entry-level positions have proven eager, willing, and able to learn many aspects of the restaurant operation, including food prep and care and maintenance.”

Daniel Antoon, a Tucson IRC Matching Grant Coordinator, reflects on a specific refugee success story at JAM Culinary Concept’s restaurant, Twister Tandoor. “Yahya was hired at Twisted Tandoor as a dishwasher and the managers recognized his potential,” Antoon said. “Yahya has told me he is really happy at the restaurant. He enjoys the work, and the foods are familiar because of the sizeable Indian population where is from in Kenya.” Yahya’s manager stated that his “ultimate goal is to have him become a jack of all trades between dish and prep.” 

Martinez highly recommends partnering with the IRC to any businesses in Tucson looking for new hires because of refugee’s incredible work ethic. “The candidates and employees provided by IRC have proven to be hard-working, dedicated, and loyal: Essential traits sought after by the owner(s) or manager(s) of any business,” he said.

“The IRC is a hands-on organization which wants only the best for those they have gathered under their umbrella,” Martinez said. “[The IRC] works directly with a wide variety of businesses to ensure proper training, scheduling, and transportation to and from work.”

Antoon believes that the IRC’s employment partners are essential to the mission of the IRC. “The goal of refugee resettlement is early self-sufficiency. That includes financial independence and otherwise. These employers we work with are eager to give clients an opportunity to provide for their families and become independent,” he said.

JAM Culinary Concepts is a family-owned and operated business, dedicated to growth. Martinez states that “at JAM Culinary Concepts, we pride ourselves not only on the food and service we provide, but the relationships that we develop with our employees, and that our employees develop with each other. The candidates and employees provided by [the] IRC have proven to be hard-working, dedicated, and loyal – essential traits sought after by the owners or managers of any business.”

The International Rescue Committee partners with 23 employers in Tucson to create beneficial working relationships for both the employers and the employees. The Employment and Economic Empowerment Department has placed 88 new arrivals in employment in the 2017 fiscal year. Refugees bring unique experiences and perspectives to their jobs.

“In general, all of our goals are the same, no matter from whence we come: we want to provide for our families, we want to be sure that we can provide for ourselves, and we want to be able to take pride in our work,” Martinez said. Noor Dawari, who works as an Employment Specialist for the IRC, agrees with Martinez’s statement about how many refugees are motivated by an undying need to provide for their families. “Almost all of our clients are very dedicated and motivated by the fact they have to support their families by working hard,” Dawari says. “Most of our clients don’t really care if the positions they’ll be hired are at nights, days, weekends or any shifts. All they care [about] is to be self-sufficient and be able to pay their bills and support their families. I was very impressed by one of our client whom I have worked with as his case manager - he started working as a dishwasher less than a year ago and when I did a budget with him about a month ago, he has saved about $8,000.00 in his bank account, on top of paying his bills and supporting his family.” The IRC works diligently to assist refugees in their endeavor to become financially stable and self-sufficient through both the Case Management Department and the Economic Empowerment and Employment Department.

Caitlin Reinhard, the Tucson IRC’s Career Development and Financial Services Coordinator, echoes Dawari’s statements about the motivation refugees have to provide for their families. “Over the past six years I have worked with hundreds of refugees who were clearly motivated by their families to succeed in the workplace,” Reinhard said. “I have worked with refugees willing to go to any lengths to achieve economic self-sufficiency and to build a life for themselves and their families.”

Since openings its doors in 1997, the IRC has helped over 5,000 refugees resettle in Tucson. Refugees add to the rich diversity that Tucson is known for and inspires the city’s long history and tradition of welcome for all. As Martinez emphasized, they become dedicated employees and members of the community. They also become taxpayers, innovative business owners and consumers – essentially contributing to the local economy and living the American dream.

“We are always looking for new partners in the community willing to give new Americans a chance to ‘get their feet on the ground,’” Antoon said. “Community support is so important for refugee integration and our Tucson employment partners are central to that.”

If your business is interesting in partnering with the International Rescue Committee, please email us tucsonirc [at] rescue.org.

Authored by Jacqui Marzocca