New Canadians proud to start a restaurant and become employers

Credit to Author: Ramya Ramanathan| Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2020 19:24:14 +0000

Did you know that South Okanagan in the province of British Colombia is a becoming the next destination for foodies? Ever tried the Nepali-Indian fusion cuisine?

Meet Keshab Sapkota and Ram Bhandari, immigrants from Nepal and successful entrepreneurs, who have made Penticton, a small city in the Okanagan Valley, their home.

Both came to the Valley a few years ago and started off by cooking at various restaurants. At the same time, they made a connection with the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS) – a settlement agency helping immigrants to the South Okanagan. With help from the agency, they upgraded their language skills and built their networks by participating in community events.

While they settled into their new jobs and into their new home, Keshab and Ram continued nursing a dream of creating their own, unique restaurant where they could use the unique culinary skills they had learned in their mothers’ kitchens and through years of training.

With determination and through continued efforts, they made their dream a reality. Annapurna Restaurant opened in early 2019 on Penticton’s Main Street and, since then, people who try the delicious food keep coming back. Today, SOICS is also one of their devoted clients.

The restaurant offers a delicious fusion of Nepali and Indian cuisines inspired by the blend of Tibetan, Indian and Chinese cultures present in Nepal. These complex and flavourful dishes are made to satisfy both vegetarians and meat lovers. Moreover, since each dish is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients, the Annapurna team can make your meal without gluten, lactose or nuts.

Besides being the name of the famous mountain range in the Himalayas boasting a peak of over 8,000 meters, for Hindus, Annapurna is the “universal and timeless kitchen goddess” and the goddess of food and nourishment.

There is a small community of four or five Nepalese families in the valley that get together for the holidays to share food and good times. Two of Ram’s sisters own their own restaurants – one in West Kelowna called “Everest” and the other in Vernon named “The Curry Pot”, both well loved by the locals.

“There are a lot of things we truly value about our life in Canada but if we had to pick one it would be the protection of human rights allowing you to be who you want to be,” say Sapkota and Bhandari.

“We used to be job seekers but now we are job creators,” Keshab adds with a smile. The two friends now employ up to five staff, depending on the season, and are proud of being able to contribute to the local economy.

The restaurant named for the “universal and timeless kitchen goddess” has two great sons that will not let you leave hungry.

This profile was originally featured as part of the ‘Community Champions’ series by South Okanagan Similkameen Immigrant and Community Services