Amidst the array of new restaurant openings, Jasmine Kitchen stands out from the rest.
But it’s not its fresh-as-sunshine yellow building on Augusta Street in downtown Greenville. It’s also not the menu — although the soups, sandwiches and salads the restaurant plans to serve will be scratch-made with local ingredients.
Instead, it’s Jasmine Kitchen’s mission that sets it apart — to provide on-the-job training and employment for residents of its nonprofit residential program, Jasmine Road, that offers a safe haven for survivors of sexual exploitation and addiction.
“The concept is the first of its kind in Greenville,” says Kathryn Norwood, board chair for Jasmine Road.
Jasmine Road’s first safe house in Greenville opened May 2018 and is a partnership between Christ Church Episcopal, Triune Mercy Center and Bon Secours St. Francis Health System. The nonprofit, two-year residential program has a mission “to heal, power and employ” by providing a place to live, resources and job training for women who enter its program. Most of the women in the program are local to Greenville.
“The women that we’re serving have criminal backgrounds and have a really difficult time getting jobs and the ones they can get aren’t always in the safest environment,” says Beth Messick, executive director for Jasmine Road.” Being able to create a sustainable source of income for the women using this business model that gives back to the non-profit is a huge part of what we are doing.”
Currently, there are five women at a time — the number of beds available — in the Jasmine Road program. After six months, the women can start working part-time at Jasmine Kitchen. Once they graduate from the program, they can opt to continue to work at the restaurant or leave and find other jobs.
“We want to empower these women and the job skills and soft skills they learn will translate into being better employees wherever they go,” Messick says.
Jasmine Kitchen has also partnered with Project Host to provide culinary training through Project Host’s CC Pearce Culinary School. The culinary school is a six-week program that includes hands-on food preparation, ServSafe food safety instruction, and employment-readiness lessons to prepare people for gainful employment that will lead them toward self-sufficiency.
“There’s a lot of financial empowerment and financial education we provide,” Messick says. “We want them to work in a wonderful space that has love and support.”
Jasmine Kitchen is in a 100-year-old renovated house on Augusta Road. Messick says that’s intentional. “We want these women right smack in the community. This is their community too and we want them to enjoy it.”
Women from the program will be joined by volunteers to serve a daily lunch with a menu of sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts.
“Food is the centerpiece,” says Nicci Hughes, Jasmine Kitchen’s executive chef. “That’s something that we’re going to provide here and be able to share the experience.
“The food we’re going to serve is very healthy, with fresh ingredients made in an old-fashioned way,” Norwood says. “It’s a way of teaching cooking that’s very creative, very healthy. We’re making comfort food innovate.”
In addition to a large community table, diners will be served in one of four dining rooms or, weather permitting, on the large, outdoor patio. A merchandise area will offer handmade candles, bracelets and other items available for purchase made by women in the program. All proceeds from the restaurant will go back into funding for the Jasmine Road non-profit.
Jasmine Kitchen is set to open to the public on Monday, Feb. 10. Hours will be Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Jasmine Kitchen is located at 503 Augusta St., Greenville.