Category: News

Serving our Community

Many know Spice Bridge as home to our Food Business Incubator where people can come and experience food from around the world all while supporting immigrant and refugee chefs in launching their businesses. But did you know about our Community Meals program? Each week, Spice Bridge chefs cook up hundreds of meals that are then delivered to food insecure community members in need. Our Community Meal program is double the impact –culturally-appropriate meals are provided to those in need at no cost and the local food economy is supported by purchasing meals from our start-up BIPOC and immigrant/refugee chefs. Community supporting community.

Thanks to grant funds from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) Food Assistance Program and a partnership with Seattle Good Business Network’s Good Food Kitchen Network, Spice Bridge chefs are cooking up to 350 meals each week. Our community partners, such as SHAG and International Rescue Committee (IRC), help ensure meals are delivered directly to the community’s doorstep. SHAG home-delivers the meals to seniors while providing a check-in during a time of isolation. IRC has ensured delivery of halal meals to arriving Afghan refugees in transitional housing—providing the comfort of familiar dishes in a new home. 

COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity in our communities. We are committed to improving the emergency food system, empowering the local community, and connecting those in need to multiple resources. Stay tuned for more updates this year as we expand this program, explore more partnerships, and connect with more food insecure individuals in our community.


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What we achieved in 2021

As challenging as 2021 was, we celebrated many bright spots, such as the one-year anniversary of Spice Bridge, home to our Food Business Incubator program. We marked the occasion by welcoming more than 300 community supporters, partners, and friends to join us in honoring and celebrating the extraordinary program participants. In addition, 2021 also saw our first businesses graduate from the incubator program: Seatango and Naija Buka!
Naija Buka's products can be found online and at PCC Markets, and Seatango has opened a bakery in Lake City.

Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters and sponsors, we were able to close our capital campaign.

Our Tukwila Village Farmers Market also had a fruitful season with increased sales for our growers and improved access for community members. Community members experiencing food insecurity can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market with SNAP/EBT, SNAP Market March, and FIN’s “Heart Bucks.” In 2021, these programs helped community members purchase more than $17,000 of fresh and local produce.

We are determined to continue expanding our programs in 2022, and we are motivated to tackle the issues our communities face with the same grit and perseverance.


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Welcoming Leslee Dixon to our Team!

Leslee is deeply curious about the ways nature informs, business, leadership, and systems. Having decades of development experience with incubating and scaling businesses, she believes in a post competitive, open-source collaborative future. Leslee is a Mother, artist, and community builder and has held roles of instructor, chef, entrepreneur, and C- level executive. What she loves best, is amplifying the work of small businesses and helping navigate the peaks and valleys of leadership and decision making. 

As a PNW food systems expert, she is passionate about economic and social justice, cultivating more circular local economies, rebuilding shared regional inclusive diverse food sheds, and creating accessibility, affordability within human-scaled economies.

"I am so honored to be joining the team at Spice Bridge. I was drawn to this position because it is a confluence of so many things I love. The main reasons being, working in service and support to food businesses and being part of a collective of humans who are committed to food justice. 

I believe there has never been a time we have been working to solve so many problems at once, environmentally, economically, and for the health, safety, inclusion and wellness of all our community members. At a time when we feel isolated, the antidote to our fatigue is to find resources in community; the ways to work together, to find those who we can go far with. To collaborate for the highest good. To ask ourselves, what systems can we disrupt? What needs our nurture, and what needs healing? The work requires us to look deeply at ourselves and participate while holding curiosity and willingness to hold change. Food is a great connector, all are deserving of nutrient dense and culturally specific clean foods. 

The culture around how we eat and feed our communities, globally and locally is reflective of our social and economic value sets. I have worked in many aspects of food, in potlatch economies, as a farmer, chef, and at home as a single mother feeding 3 kids. I have owned and operated a restaurant, worked as a consultant for startups, incubation spaces, and in micro and large scale distribution. My work and learning has been centered on engaging hard questions around what social and economic diversity and justice looks like locally, especially around re-imagining more equitable and participatory food systems. 

As The Market Relations Manager, I look forward to meeting each of you, supporting new opportunities for growth and partnership, emboldening awareness about Spice Bridge, and engaging with the work we will co-create in 2022."

Leslee Dixon, FIN Market Relations Manager


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We knew it would take a village, and it did, and together we did it!

After many years of thoughtful planning, working with entrepreneurs and partners, and with a groundswell of support from you, our caring community…We did it! We met our capital campaign goal of $850,000!

Together, we built Spice Bridge, home to our Food Business Incubator program. This community treasure celebrates the rich food traditions of our vibrant, diverse community. Your support will have a lasting impact in helping women of color, immigrant, and refugee chefs access the resources they need to build thriving businesses.

We met our goal because of our community coming together to make this moment happen. Individuals, families, local businesses, community organizations, and foundations came together to build something tremendous together. Gifts of all sizes truly mattered in this campaign, added up they built Spice Bridge where everyone is welcome. Whether you gave $5.00 or $100,000, you helped make this happen, we see how much you care, and we are deeply grateful. Please visit Spice Bridge to see our “Food is Love” appreciation wall!

When we started planning this years ago, we were not in a pandemic. We began working with aspiring entrepreneurs to create a space that was inclusive, provided economic opportunity, and offered community connections. Spice Bridge opened in September 2020 and was ready to meet the changing needs of the food industry to support the Incubator businesses and also address the rising need families and seniors were facing to put culturally relevant meals on the table.

Now, in 2022, we are excited to onboard new businesses into the Food Business Incubator program, support the current cohort as they grow and scale, and expand our community meal program to provide over 250 meals a week along with Tukwila Village Farmers Market. This is ALL possible through Spice Bridge being a reality. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU for helping us build our new home! Food is Love!
With gratitude,

Kara Martin - Food Innovation Network Program Director

A.J. McClure - Global To Local Executive Director


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We Are Hiring!

We are excited to share that we are hiring a Market Relations Manager!

The Market Relations Manager is responsible for cultivating partnerships and development of market and sales channels for businesses in our nonprofit Food Business Incubator. This position manages the development and coordination of off-site sales (outside of Spice Bridge) such as farmers markets, pop-ups, and new satellite vending locations under development and anticipated to open in 2022. We’re looking for someone with food industry and marketing experience to support women of color and immigrant entrepreneurs to start and grow thriving businesses. Please share widely with your networks. Learn more and apply here.


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Spice Bridge Celebrates Its 1 year Anniversary

Spice Bridge has opened and thrived in a time of uncertainty due to the warm support from our community. We greatly appreciate your dedication and support in helping make this a community space for aspiring women of color, immigrant, and refugee chefs in their quest for building successful food businesses.

We are so proud of the chefs at Spice Bridge! Their entrepreneurial spirit, determination and hard work has brought in a successful first year during the harshest of times for starting a business.

Please celebrate with us through a month of festivities including weekly:

  • Packaged food pop-ups: Stop by Spice Bridge and stock up on spice mixes, sauces, meal kits and snacks from Afella Jollof Catering, Jazze's, Moyo Kitchen, Naija Buka, Taste of Congo, Seatango, Wengay’s Kitchen and WUHA. Wednesday 9/8 12-8pm and every Tuesday, 12-4pm.
  • Meet the Chefs: we are hosting a weekly Meet the Chefs live on Facebook where we will take you behind the scenes in our kitchen! Explore little secrets about their dishes, learn about their hobbies and interests, and go on a journey around the world to discover the culinary customs of different food cultures.
    (We will be taking questions from the viewers!)
    Here is the full lineup and the dates (3pm Live):
    ~ Thur 9/9 - Theary Cambodian Foods and Afella Jollof Catering
    ~ Wed 9/15 - Monique’s Hot Kitchen and WUHA
    ~ Tue 9/21 - Taste of Congo and Wengay’s Kitchen
    ~ Fri 10/1 - Moyo Kitchen and Jazze’s 
  • Food themes- our spin of Iron Chef includes highlighting a common dish or ingredient all Spice Bridge vendors cook up. Stop by for a global taste of a common dish!
  • Food is Love coloring fun for kids! Download here or stop by for a coloring sheet that we will display on the Spice Bridge walls. Return by 10/1 to enter a raffle contest!

And, then join us Wednesday, October 6, 4-7pm! Event Link

We invite you to our anniversary party that will include honoring and celebrating the rich cultural traditions of our community. We hope to see you there!


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Spice Bridge in the News

Spice Bridge chefs have stirred up a lot of interest from news media! Here are some featured stories:

We'll add more stories as they are published. Sign up for FIN’s newsletter and follow Spice Bridge’s Facebook and Instagram channels to keep up with the latest news!


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Stories of Arrival: Student Poetry Performances

Foster High School students Diana Hassan Zada, Mariyam Faizi, and Muna Aidid performed their powerful poems at our recent "Faces of the Community" virtual celebration of art and community. Whether you missed the event, or want to experience the poems one more time, we invite you to watch recordings of the performances:

The students are participants in the Stories of Arrival: Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project. Their powerful visual poems, currently on display at Spice Bridge, include creative self-portraits, along with poetry and art that honors homelands, tells of border crossings and migration, and speaks to dreams for a more peaceful world. 

Our "Faces of the Community" event was supported, in part, by a grant from 4Culture, and by the City of Tukwila Arts Commission. 


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Pop-ups at Spice Bridge

While Jazze's is temporarily closed from Feb. 4 through Mar. 5 for family reasons, a great lineup of global food businesses will hold pop-ups at their stall. Come by Spice Bridge to enjoy even more flavors from around the world:

Thursday, Feb. 4—WUHA Ethiopian-American Cuisine
Saturday, Feb. 6—Seatango
Friday, Feb. 12—Mamá Tila
Saturday, Feb. 13—Seatango
Friday, Feb. 19—Mamá Tila
Saturday, Feb. 20—Monique’s Hot Kitchen
Friday, Feb. 26—Mamá Tila
Saturday, Feb. 27—Monique’s Hot Kitchen
Friday, Mar. 5—Mamá Tila

We expect to add more vendors to the schedule, so please check back often!


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Meet Theary Cambodian Foods Owner Theary Ngeth

We’re excited to introduce you to the vendors who offer cuisines from around the world at Spice Bridge! Today we’d like for you to meet the owner of Theary Cambodian Foods.

Theary Ngeth launched Theary Cambodian Foods in October to provide comfort and connection for her fellow Cambodians, and to preserve and share her cultural food traditions.

A spread of three authentic Cambodian dishes and two jars of chili oil paste and pickled vegetables

When Theary was 5 years old, she and her family escaped the Khmer Rouge on foot, making a dangerous journey through the jungle from Cambodia to Thailand. They were among thousands of Cambodians who fled genocide, survived brutal conditions in refugee camps, and eventually resettled in the United States. These refugees endured many losses, including important parts of their culinary heritage.

“So many Cambodian recipes, traditionally passed down orally from parents to children, went to the grave during the Khmer Rouge," Theary said. Her mother and other survivors kept many Cambodian cooking traditions alive, but Theary sees them fading as her parents' generation passes away.

"We are losing our authentic flavors and our techniques, because elders hold the knowledge of how our dishes are made and how exactly they should taste. You can't learn this from a book or from YouTube—it has to happen in person. It's a process of tasting and adjusting. I'm grateful I experienced my mom's food and learned so many cooking secrets from her,” she said.

Theary became passionate about cooking after her childhood friend recruited her to prepare meals for a group of Cambodian seniors in the Seattle area.

“The seniors say, ‘I've been looking for this flavor for a long time, and you’re the only person who has made this the way I remember it. This dish reminds me of 1971, before the Khmer Rouge.’ That keeps me motivated to keep this food tradition alive. These are the healthy foods of our ancestors,” Theary said. "Some of my people won’t or can’t go back to Cambodia. But they can have the food experience at my kiosk."

Oxtail and beef back rib soup with noodles, carrots, green papaya, daikon radish, and cabbage, and oven- roasted onions. It's topped with fresh herbs, baby bean sprouts, lime, jalapeño, fried garlic and ginger, and Theary's chili oil paste.

Read our Q&A with Theary to learn about traditional Cambodian cuisine, how she learned to cook, and more.

Please tell us about Cambodian food.

Our food is special because these foods are passed down through generations. There hasn’t been a lot of modern medicine in the country, but we have these ancestral, ancient ways of eating for our health. For example, we use galangal and garlic to help lower blood pressure. And the way we balance our dishes—the combination of carbs, vegetables, and herbs—it’s good for digestion.

Our baseline of our food starts out from fresh nature. At the heart of it is a paste called kroeung made from fresh lemongrass, kaffir leaves, turmeric, garlic, and galangal. Many people who think of lemongrass think of it as a scent or a tea, but they don’t think about eating it in soups and other meals. I slice the grass stem thin and smash it to release the oils, make it into a paste, so you get a wonderful aroma. This is the traditional way—no blending, because we didn’t have blenders. When I heat up the oil and add kroeung, it creates a great aroma that fills up the room.

Cambodian food is all about caramelization, and each person adding the toppings they want to get the right balance of salty and sweet. Take fried rice for example. It’s steamed rice with the kroeung paste. Then you top it with caramelized garlic, sliced ginger, and sauce, and you get so many layers of interest. It’s so attractive to your eyes, and nose, and mouth.

Plate of Cambodian fried rice
Theary's Cambodian fried rice

How did you learn to cook?

My mom was a chef. I didn’t like cooking because growing up I wanted more of my mom’s time, and it was always taken away from me when she was cooking for everyone. Same with my dad—he was a Buddhist priest, so their professions took them away from me. I didn't like how much time my mom spent cooking. When she cooked for the community center, for friends, I walked away. But I looked at what she had on the counter, and I noted all of it, took a photo in my mind of all the ingredients.

After my mom died, my childhood friend recruited me to cook for Khmer seniors to carry on the legacy my parents started in the late 80's to mid 90's. He wanted the Khmer seniors to have a place to go and socialize, and most important to enjoy the authentic Khmer foods that they loved when my parents were cooking for them. I still didn’t like cooking, but the seniors were saying that they liked my food, and it tasted like my mom’s, and reminded them of my mom, and they missed her. They said when they see me, it’s like seeing my mother, and it makes them happy. So I felt a commitment. And then I started to love cooking. What I love most about being a chef is being able to deliver happy moments and happy memories—being able to create that, so the rest of their day they feel happy and have memories of their family life.

Plate of Me Ga Tunk noodles with beef and vegetables
Theary's Me Ga Tunk, beef sautéed with crushed caramelized garlic, egg, and Chinese broccoli. Served over wide rice noodles and finished with herbs, coconut cream, fried ginger and garlic, Theary's chili oil paste, and crushed, freshly roasted nuts.

Tell us about starting your business, Theary Cambodian Foods.

Cooking at the community center helped me practice cooking in a commercial atmosphere, cooking for big crowds. I learned how to move and make things fast and in an authentic way.

I knew I wanted to have my own food business, but I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t have the direction or the resources. My friend Liyu [now the owner of WUHA Ethiopian-American Cuisine] was at my house eating my chili oil, and she loved it. She said it had to be in stores and restaurants. She also told me about FIN. I joined FIN and took business classes with Ventures.

Before Spice Bridge, it was just my home kitchen, a few friends in my living room. I couldn’t see where my food could go. Now I see how it can go to be shared around the world. I’m ready! I feel excited, happy, ready.

Maybe my mom is looking out for me—it’s like she said, “Let's get you into cooking! And here’s your friend Liyu, and she’ll introduce you to FIN.”

My mom wanted to start a restaurant, but didn’t have the resources. Now I feel her dreams will be accomplished through me.

Visit Spice Bridge

Come by Spice Bridge to experience cuisine from Theary Cambodian Foods and other rotating vendors. We have takeout and outdoor dining available, and some vendors offer delivery options. See our full schedule.

Theary Cambodian Foods is open at Spice Bridge on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m

Contact Theary Cambodian Foods

Theary Cambodian Foods logo


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