A Taste of Harmony: how food brings people together
In a busy workplace, really getting to know your colleagues often comes in second to getting the job done. We may sit next to someone for months before learning their family immigrated from another country and they speak something other than English at home, or that they regularly eat foods we’ve never heard of.
A Taste of Harmony is an annual event that seeks to redress this, and to celebrate cultural diversity in workforces through sharing food. Each year in March, thousands of workers around Australia share dishes and stories that represent their cultural heritage. If you’ve been salivating over your co-worker’s lunch every day for the past year, we strongly suggest convincing your workplace to register. This year A Taste of Harmony is celebrating its 10th anniversary and it’s on from 19 to 29 March.
Carly Day, a Brisbane-based chef with British and Jamaican heritage has been a chef ambassador for A Taste Of Harmony for five consecutive years. For her, A Taste of Harmony presents an opportunity for genuine connection and sharing some seriously delicious Jamaican food from her restaurant, The Ja Joint.
“Everyone comes from different cultural heritages, no matter how big your office is,” she tells SBS. People at work are often really busy, they don’t get the opportunity to talk about their food or their culture,” she says. “A Taste of Harmony is an awesome opportunity for that.”
“Everyone comes from different cultural heritages, no matter how big your office is.”
An important aspect of ATOH is inclusion, something that strikes a particular chord with another chef ambassador, Jordan Bruno in Perth. As a My Kitchen Rules contestant and Mr Gay Pride Australia 2018, part of Bruno’s remit is bolstering inclusion within the wider community. Food, he says, is an ideal way to break down boundaries between groups.
“I’ve worked in many offices over the years, and bringing food from my culture has always been a big part of my job,” he says. Bruno’s heritage is Maltese and Italian. “A Taste of Harmony is about actively encouraging everyone across Perth to share their culture and start conversations about how we’re all different. It’s about making the office a more inclusive space for everyone.”
For Morgan McGlone of Melbourne’s Belles Hot Chicken and forthcoming steakhouse-style restaurant Natural History, A Taste of Harmony is a chance to train the spotlight on the people who keep his restaurants going: his staff.
“We have a huge multicultural team at Belles,” he explains. “There are Nepalese, Fijians, Thais, Australians, a whole mix of different nationalities in the kitchens. We’ve often shared different meals for lunch – the Nepalese guys bring in momos [Nepal’s answer to the dumpling] for example. These people come here looking for a better life. We try to find ways to help them stay with us.”
As part of his involvement in A Taste of Harmony this year, McGlone is encouraging his employees across all Belles locations to bring along an important cultural dish from their home countries. “We’re going to figure out a way to get these dishes on the Belles menu,” he says.
At a time when cultural appropriation and the ‘bastardisation’ of culinary traditions occupies a decent chunk of the news cycle, A Taste of Harmony acts as a means to shift the conversation towards learning about different cultures, rather than stealing from or dominating them.
It’s normal to eat souvlaki or noodle dishes. It’s not seen as ethnic or special, it’s just normal.
“I think it’s great for everyone to try different food,” says McGlone. “The best thing about living in Melbourne is that there’s so many different cultures. It’s normal to eat souvlaki or noodle dishes. It’s not seen as ethnic or special, it’s just normal. The only way we can share is if we all go out and learn to respect each other’s foods and each other’s cultures.”
Bring a dish to work, an open mind and sharp tastebuds, and help make the office a better place.
“Work is where we spend so much of our time,” says Bruno. “Feeling comfortable in our own skin and feeling good about who you are at work is so important. A Taste of Harmony is such a great initiative to conquer that.”
Register for A Taste of Harmony online today.