Home Cooking

Mera Kitchen Collective gives immigrants and refugees platform to cook.

Jess Mayhugh - October 2017

Home Cooking

Mera Kitchen Collective gives immigrants and refugees platform to cook.

Jess Mayhugh - October 2017

Liliane Makole, left, and Iman Alshehab. -Mike Morgan

When Liliane Makole came to America from Cameroon, she made a dream board on the bedroom wall of her Little Italy home. One of her aspirations was to open her own restaurant.

Today, her dream is more attainable than ever. Makole and five other women founded Mera Kitchen Collective, a worker-owned co-op focused on empowering refugees and immigrants and tapping into their culinary heritage by hosting pop-up events throughout the city. 


⇓ Article continues below ⇓

“When there’s so much movement in people’s lives, cooking is an anchor,” says member and translator Aishah Alfadhalah. “This is something familiar when everything else feels new.”

Inspired by women’s empowerment groups she had seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo, co-founder Emily Lerman connected with Makole, Meg Murray, and Brittany DeNovellis, who all had similar ideas of giving women the platform to cook. 

“With the current political climate, there’s a heightened interest in the immigrant experience,” Murray says.

Mera co-founder Iman Alshehab, a Syrian refugee who has been in America for seven months was the executive chef of the Four Seasons back in Damascus. 

“When I first got here, I wanted to go back home,” says Alshehab through translation. “But starting this project has brought love back into my life.” 

That love was on full display in June, when she cooked for a sold-out event at Hersh’s in South Baltimore. Instead of pizza and pasta coming out of the kitchen, it was Alshehab’s grape leaves and kibbeh dishes. In September, Makole hosted her own chicken cooking class at R. House. Next month, Mera is hosting a pop-up at Clavel. The eventual goal is for the co-op to open its own brick-and-mortar cafe. 

“The idea is to amplify the voices, skills, and stories of these women—and, so far, everyone has said yes,” says Lerman. “You always hear that Baltimore is this great, supportive place. But it’s nice to actually experience it and realize it’s true.”





You May Also Like


On The Town

Ministry of Brewing to Open Inside St. Michael’s Church in Fells Point

The 19th-century landmark will soon transform into a brewery and beer hall, set to open in early fall.

Food & Drink

Local Flavor Live Podcast: The Great Crab vs. Lobster Debate

Plus, Fishnet opens in Mt. Vernon, drag brunches and dinners, and best bites.

Food & Drink

There Goes The Gayborhood

As LGBTQ-friendly bars close, we examine what safe spaces will look like in Baltimore.


Food & Drink

Hungry for Health

A new cafe at Towson’s Kenilworth mall promotes quality ingredients for meat lovers and vegans.

On The Town

Baltimore’s Little-Known Pickle History Celebrated at New Festival

Everything from fried pickles to pickle ice cream will be served at the September 22 event.

Best of Baltimore

Best of Baltimore 2019

Our annual roundup of the tops in dining, arts, service, media, and more.

Liliane Makole, left, and Iman Alshehab. -Mike Morgan

Connect With Us

Most Read


Relics of Baltimore's Forgotten Punk Scene Showcased in New Metro Gallery Exhibit: Celebrated Summer Records owner Tony Pence curates fliers, photos, and music from 1977 to 1989.

What is the Likelihood of President Trump Coming to Baltimore?: With a House Republican conference and an invitation from Elijah Cummings, a presidential visit might be imminent.

Severe Flooding Plagues Neighborhoods Surrounding the Inner Harbor: Stark images of Harbor East and Fells Point arise on social media as area reckons with heavy rainfall.

Developers Hope to Unveil Greektown’s Yard 56 by 2020: The mixed-use project will be anchored by Streets Market and LA Fitness.

Oletha DeVane Showcases Sculptural Works in 'Traces of Spirit' at the BMA: Local multidisciplinary artist explores religion, nature, and humanity in exhibit on view through October 20.