At Sanctuary Kitchen, we believe that sharing a meal and personal stories is a strong and meaningful gesture of welcome and acceptance, an intimate space in which simple and genuine cultural exchanges can occur. We believe in community and we hope that our programs will cultivate authentic connections between local residents and new arrivals. Food brings people to the table, enriches lives, and fosters mutual understanding across diverse cultures in the most delicious way possible.
Sanctuary Kitchen, a program of CitySeed in partnership with a network of community volunteers, was formed in 2017 to promote and celebrate the culinary traditions, cultures, and stories of refugees and immigrants resettled in Connecticut. In addition to its historical leadership as an immigration hub, New Haven receives up to 500 resettled refugees annually. With this diversity comes opportunities for cultural exchange, enriching the community at large and building ties across demographic divides.
Refugees and immigrants arrive with the potential to contribute their unique skills and passions to the diverse and changing face of the Greater New Haven Area. Sanctuary Kitchen seeks to highlight these skills in economically viable culinary pursuits that provide personal income potential, while promoting culinary traditions, cultures, and stories to improve understanding and appreciation throughout our community. By attending a Sanctuary Kitchen event, you're helping refugees and asylum seekers receive training, support, income and opportunities to share their skills in meaningful ways.
CitySeed is a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide access to fresh, local food for all New Haven residents. We operate a series of food-related services and activities toward that end. CitySeed’s mission is to engage the community in growing an equitable, local food system that promotes economic development, community development and sustainable agriculture. CitySeed has a licensed, commercial kitchen space, which was built with the aim to joyfully build culture and community through education and entrepreneurship. Sanctuary Kitchen is an important piece of this work.
Sanc·tu·ar·y - Place of refuge or rest, a place where you can feel at peace
Origin and Etymology of Sanctuary: Middle English seintuarie, sanctuarie, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin sanctuarium, from Latin sanctus. First known use: 14th Century
Meet the Sanctuary Kitchen Leadership Team
LAMIAA BEN AYAD
Lamiaa immigrated to the United States with her husband from Chefchaouen Morocco in 2014. She has a Masters degree in civil engineering, speaks three languages (Arabic, French and English) and is a mother of an energetic toddler. She used to work and volunteer at IRIS, where she assisted refugees with interpretation. As an immigrant, Lamiaa knows first hand how hard it is to move to a new country and not speaking the language. As a result, she is committed to facilitate communication for other immigrants and refugees.
Carol serves as Sanctuary Kitchen’s Catering Manager and Culinary Coordinator. Never satisfied by what was on the table growing up, Carol was determined at an early age to make meals at home an adventure. With a family rich in ethnic recipes she quickly excelled in creating a culturally enriched kitchen. Carol ultimately chose an education in children’s illustration, yet part of part of her always remained madly in love with cooking, She created her own culinary ethos in a chaotic world of the arts, married life, child rearing and a variety of professional cooking appointments. The most notable being the executive chef of the Exhibition Café at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT and the other for building the Provender, a world class food service and catering business for New Morning Market in Woodbury, CT. The result has been thirty years as an executive chef and a very happy transition from children’s book artist to food artist.
The granddaughter of refugees fleeing Eastern Europe and the daughter of an inspiring cook of traditional Jewish cuisine, Donna learned at a young age that food was a way to teach and celebrate identity, preserve and share tradition, express generosity and bring people together. She earned a PhD in Clinical Psychology and has devoted four decades to volunteering in the community, including work with refugees and immigrants, people living with/affected by AIDS, the food insecure and homeless, those living with chronic mental illness and teaching ESL. She has been with Sanctuary Kitchen since its inception in 2017 as a founding member, and serves on the Leadership Team and as Volunteer Coordinator. She is grateful for the opportunity to combine so many of her passions in her work with Sanctuary Kitchen, and to partner with so many talented and visionary Team members, staff, chefs and volunteers.
Karima left her home country of Morocco, at an early age, to further her education in France. Twenty years ago, Karima and her family moved to the U.S. to pursue their dreams. As an immigrant, she feels a deep connection with refugees as they start their lives in this new land. Karima speaks four languages and as a foreign language teacher and volunteer interpreter in New Haven, she is able to break down language barriers and open the lines of communication for refugees. She understands the importance of not allowing language differences to be an obstacle for communication.
Karima believes that sharing food, learning about different food cultures and kitchen etiquette helps break down the divide and eliminate stereotypes. She sees these as the bridge that brings people together from different cultures.
SUMIYA KHAN, MS, RD
A co-founder of Sanctuary Kitchen and a Registered Dietitian, Sumiya is the Kitchen Program Manager at CitySeed, where she oversees Sanctuary Kitchen, cooking and food education, and food business incubation. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants and global justice activists, and is a California native raised among a diverse and multicultural community with a large immigrant and refugee population. Started as her passion project, Sanctuary Kitchen is the synthesis of her upbringing, work in social justice, and passion for food and nutrition. In her spare time, Sumiya enjoys baking, world traveling and photography.
Emma serves as the Board Chair of CitySeed and has been a volunteer with IRIS since 2016. She is excited about community food systems, meeting new people, and living in New Haven. She has worked in farm-based education, youth development, and forestry, and is currently the Education Director for Connecticut Forest & Park Association. She earned a Masters in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning with a focus on community food systems, and hopes to use her experiences to further the mission of Sanctuary Kitchen.
Ashley Kremser, CitySeed’s Director of Operations, oversees CitySeed’s programming, operations and marketing. With over 15 years of non-profit management experience, the pillars of Ashley’s work are community organizing, agriculture, immigrant rights and social justice. Ashley was born and raised in Puerto Rico by American parents and moved to New Haven in 2003. She currently lives in Westville with her husband and two sons. A member of the New Haven Food Policy Council, Ashley is a food enthusiast, an avid gardener and is passionate about reinventing spaces and using food as a tool in building community, civic dialog, and connecting people and cultures.
AMELIA REESE MASTERSON
Amelia, Executive Director of CitySeed, has worked for over a decade at the intersection of food security, health, agriculture, and refugee services. She has worked with Iraqi and Syrian refugees across the Middle East on food security programming, in addition to spending time in New Haven both earning a Masters in Public Health and working in community-based food and nutrition services. She sees food justice as central to the wellbeing of New Haven, and food as a vehicle for bringing community members together.
LAURA MILLER, MPH
Laura is a Primary Health Care (PHC) Technical Advisor for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). She supports the technical design, monitoring and evaluation of IRC primary and reproductive health programs in conflict affected and refugee hosting countries in West Africa and South East Asia. Previously, she worked for the IRC in Sierra Leone for over four years, first as the Health Coordinator managing reproductive, maternal and child health programs, and then as the Coordinator of a national NGO consortium to support the government to respond to the Ebola outbreak. Previously she worked for the New York City Department of Health Bureau of Communicable Disease and the International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC). She is a graduate of the program on Forced Migration and Health at Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.
Disha is a cultural programmer, artist and educator based in New Haven. She is an outer borough dining enthusiast, speaker of five languages and has been her grandmother’s kitchen helper since 1990. She has worked in cultural programming and immigration advocacy at the local, national and international level - namely, the City of New York (under Bloomberg's administration), United Nations, Asia Society & Museum, a Taipei based social kitchen fusing food, art and community and has volunteered with IRIS for nearly a decade. As of now, she works as a Community Engagement Manager for an arts and cultural institution in CT.
Sanctuary Kitchen would not possible without the enormous help from the entire team at CitySeed.
Amelia Reese Masterson – Executive Director
Ashley Kremser, Director of Operations
Erin Carey, Market Manager
Alyssa Krinsky, Assistant Market Manager
Frankie Douglass, Mobile Market Manager
Sumiya Khan, Kitchen Program Manager
Carol Byer-Alcorace, Catering Manager
Sanctuary Kitchen's cooking classes and kitchen incubator are sponsored by the International Association of New Haven