“NONNAS” IN THE KITCHEN
In collaboration with the New York State Office of Aging and the New York State Department of Education, on the 60th anniversary of Older Americans Month, Hari Sreenivasan, host of Amanpour & Company, takes us to Staten Island where grandmas from around the world run a unique restaurant.
Aired on May 16, 2023
Good evening and welcome to MetroFocus.
This month is the 60th anniversary of older American month.
The theme is aging unbound.
New York has the fourth largest population of older adults in the country.
4.6 million New Yorkers over the age of 60.
By the end of the decade it is affected to grow to 5.3 million.
From health care to finances, limited mobility and isolation, growing old presents increasing challenges across the spectrum.
With Americans living longer they are more likely to live a loan.
Sometime a pleasant -- sometimes with limited connections to family and community.
The Surgeon General crazy alarm -- raised the alarm about the growing impact of -- stressing the importance of social connection.
This week public media stations across New York State are highlighting a variety of aging experiences and exploring ways to combat isolation and loneliness among older Americans.
The program takes a look at some of the ways older New Yorkers are cultivating a culture of connection.
Beginning with a tried and true unifier, food.
She has a story.
My name is Maral.
The city name is -- it is a small city.
We are located on the mountain.
It is a nice place.
It is in the middle of a two hour commute, she does not mind the travel time, she is en route to one of her favorite places.
She works at Enoteka, a small restaurant.
It is unlike any other restaurant in the country.
All the chefs the restaurant employees are women 50 and older.
Affectionately called the Italian word for grandma.
I am the owner.
He came up with the idea the restaurant after losing both of his parents and other internal figures in this life.
I had this idea that there were a lot of women at home that had a lot of culinary wisdom.
That was my idea to invite them in and have them cook.
A little more than 16 years ago, it was born.
I am Italian, so my first thought was about Italian women.
I put an ad in the Italian newspaper.
It basically means, we're looking for housewives to cook regional dishes from Italy.
I invited them to my home.
A lot of these ladies showed up with these plates of food or me to try.
They came with their husbands, children, neighbors.
I always say it was like a movie, in that moment I realized something crazy was about to happen.
As time went on Jody realized is diverse clientele would probably like their cultures celebrated, too.
He began looking for older women from other parts of the world.
There probably 30 from here, there, we just interviewed a woman from Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, China, Sri Lanka.
We interviewed a woman from Hong Kong the other day.
They are from everywhere.
All the chefs are called the Italian word for grandmother, caring on the Italian regions of the restaurant -- origins of the restaurant.
She began cooking here six years ago.
Her son-in-law tall -- told her about the restaurant after sampling the cooking and the rest as they say is history.
I am going to be 65 on July 30.
I am young.
I am helpful.
I help my children.
I help myself.
I walk a lot.
I work a lot.
I am a very hard-working woman, honestly.
My father was, my mom, and my sister.
They work, they cook, they cook at home all the time.
They will always visit.
I grow up in big family.
We always have a lot of visitors.
My father was butcher.
From everywhere people came.
They like to stay there because they had big house and big garden.
They always cook for 20, 25 people.
The cuisine is featured on the menu this evening and she is joined by Nona Yumi from Japan who is offering her dishes for dinner.
The is model runs caps to most.
-- counter to most.
The roster of aging employees are specifically hired the many years of experience.
Is this something you a growing up?
Travel here from Utah come the first thing on our list that we wanted to actually do, being here was this restaurant.
We saw it on a Facebook post.
It was such a novel idea, fly grandmas in from around the world, have them cook authentic recipes come a phenomenal idea for a restaurant.
That is something.
Every time I want to make something delicious.
I see how people eat and like it and expected.
Oh my God, it -- the Lamb melted in my mouth.
I want to start and do better and better.
That is my personality.
I am a little hyper woman.
It is just women who like to cook.
The recipes they bring to us they got from their mothers and they got from their grandmothers.
It is their culture, passed down from generation to generation.
When they get here it comes of their fingertips in the kitchen.
They express themselves in a culinary way.
Most of the leaves that cook there, let them forgive me, we are grandmas.
Of course we are not professional like chef school.
We just cook what we learn from mothers, grandmother.
We try to bring here, our tradition.
Our best food.
This food shows culture, tradition and culture.
Many times the ladies that come here, they are on their way to retirement or coming out of retirement.
A lot of times they are empty-nesters their spouses have passed away.
We have had before experience is where children have brought their mothers or grandmothers and.
They lost their spouse, they are and grieving, they are in the kitchen cooking and they liked up.
My grandmother, I think you are mine I am now adopting you.
Are you ready?
I come with you.
Send me one.
I love you so much.
I love you to come I cannot wait to show my dad.
Many of these ladies are just home.
This is something different.
They become useful again.
They're able to show what they know, express themselves, and they get a lot of attention.
Generally when they are living at the end of the night, this is grandma Maria living, people clapped, they make a little money.
It is all good.
What I'm doing here, I love it.
I love how the people are happy.
How they hold me, make picture with me.
Of course I come in and I'm happy to do something.
The passion, morale, other straps to the cooking shows of the restaurant's bottom line.
7:30, how may people are here?
Is a bustling business, Jody attributes that to the wisdom entrapment -- and talent of the age 55 up workforce.
They have so much to offer a lot of information the younger workforce does not have yet.
It is an untapped resource, I think.
Very valuable members of our society.
Underappreciated in this culture, but appreciated in many other cultures.
Wen Yu work, your self-esteem, a little bit, up.
You are a person who people know.
When you work, you make people happy.
You are happy, too.