Piaz is empowering refugee and immigrant women through bringing dumplings to American tables. The flavor-packed dumpling company started by recent University of Virginia Darden graduate, Saule Kassengaliyeva, produces recipes from female refugees and immigrants.
Saule is an immigrant herself born and raised in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. She first came to the United States for her undergraduate education, where she majored in women studies. Her work experiences have ranged from being the only female cook in a restaurant to governance advising in the Ukraine. Now as an MBA graduate, Saule is combining her roots, experiences, and passion to form Piaz.
The idea for Piaz was initially sparked last summer while Saule was interning in New York. There she met a Central Asian woman who enlightened her about a Russian community that legitimize themselves as cooks and sell their food through this community network. The women involved are not legally registered and find difficulty getting a job without having previous work experience or strong English speaking abilities.
Some of these women deal with troublesome husbands and raising children. Saule understands from her own mother that being a stay-at-home mom and wife is perhaps one of the toughest jobs, and no one will ever get paid for it. Growing up, Saule’s mother would wake up at 5 am every day and prepare three full meals for the family; maybe the reason why Saule is picky about her food – in terms of quality and source. Every Piaz dumpling is hand-made using locally sourced ingredients from Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Aside from being delicious, dumplings were selected because they are made in different ways across cultures and locations. Each dumpling gives these women a chance to express their backgrounds.
Saule is driven by a completely selfless mission. She wants to highlight the cultures of women that are underrepresented in the United States.
“It (Piaz) is not for me.” – Saule Kassengaliyeva
Profit from every sale is shared with the women behind the recipes. Saule knows Piaz can help create a source of income for these women and empower them to share their stories and cultures. She consistently asks herself, “How many women are out there unemployed because I’m not ready to hire them?”
The name ‘Piaz’ reflects the business at its core. In multiple languages, including Turkish and Hindi, Piaz translates to 'onion'. When coming to the United States either as an immigrant or refugee, these women feel bittersweet. They experience an identity crisis of where they should call home. These dumplings will expose more layers of their stories and what you will find is similar to peeling layers of an onion: sweet, sharp, refreshing, and a reaction to tear.
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Nice! Now I'm hungry.