Celebrating differences through a shared love of community cooking

Culture Kitchen's members have free use of Amy Stoddard and Femi Ajayi's vegetable garden
Culture Kitchen's members have free use of Amy Stoddard and Femi Ajayi's vegetable garden

A Goodwood-based social project is breaking down barriers with the help of delicious food, craft and creativity.

Husband-and-wife team Amy Stoddard and Femi Ajayi are behind the creation of Culture Kitchen, a growing community of people with shared interests in food, the outdoors and cultural exchange, who are willing to learn from each other and swap skills.

The project already has over 100 members of all backgrounds and ages, who meet in Amy and Femi’s garden, and has built a strong connection with local refugee support agency Sanctuary in Chichester and other minority support platforms.

Co-founder and mental health consultant Amy said: “Culture Kitchen wants to support people from asylum-seeking, refugee and minority backgrounds to be equals, where having something different to offer is highly valued and celebrated by the group.”

She said: “We provide regular communal cooking and eating events from our home, where we encourage people from the surrounding areas to celebrate diversity and explore food ideas from all over the world.

“Some of this includes the physical building of Culture Kitchen.

“For example, we are trying to save the money to build a pizza oven/outdoor bread oven that we hope our Syrian members will be able to assist us with.”

Members have enjoyed recipes ranging from Syrian poached chicken with cashew nuts to Nigerian pounded yam with goat stew, Moroccan bread and pressed apple juice from the couple’s fruit trees, now being compiled for a cookery book.

Culture Kitchen was created for personal and professional reasons.

Amy said: “Our whole family on both sides loves cooking and loves being outside doing natural craft work.”

Artist Femi spent years cooking for his family in Nigeria: “He has been influenced by the amazing and varied Nigerian cuisine, which is pretty much undiscovered by the British nation.”

After moving to West Sussex, the couple felt the need for something creative to acknowledge, actively involve and celebrate people from different backgrounds.

She said: “We believe a mixed environment where you get real cultural exchange between people of different ages, cultures and positions in society is the most exciting, creative, challenging, healthy and educational environment possible.”