Good Food in My Lucky Tummy
Adam Sudmann doesn’t know whether the idea for My Lucky Tummy came to him over a bottle of scotch, or while at a stoplight on the Northside—he does know that it wasn’t both at the same time.
My Lucky Tummy is a bi-annual international food court that employs refugees and new Americans as chefs, bringing international communities together over something they can all appreciate: good food.
Sudmann came to Syracuse two years ago with his business model fully realized. He just didn’t know where to find his cooks—until one snowy evening when he stopped at the intersection of Butternut and Townsend Street.
Having a good deal of travel under his belt, Sudmann recognized a Congolese couple on one side of the street and a Bangladeshi couple on the other. In that moment he realized there might be more to Syracuse than meets the eye.
“I didn’t know about the large refugee footprint in Syracuse before that,” Sudmann said. “I realized I had found my talent pool.”
The bottle of scotch came later, shared with Sudmann’s good friend who worked for a local refugee resettlement program, and together they cooked up a plan.
To date, My Lucky Tummy’s chefs have come from Uganda, Afghanistan, Iran, and Bhutan, as well as the local Mohawk Nation.
Sudmann estimates that 90 percent of his chefs are refugees, hired by lottery that gives all applicants a fair chance.
“People like being a star for the night,” Sudmann said. “And they get a lot of love.”
And not to mention—cash.
Sudmann pays his chefs, most of whom are amateurs having cooked for no more than their families, for something they might not get paid doing otherwise. With a turnout of 350 or so, long days in the kitchen can pay handsomely.
But the events are far from Sudmann’s favorite part of the process. He revels in the unexpected.
He once had a guest chef, a fairly serious woman, enter what she believed to be the phonetic spelling for an ingredient into YouTube, only to find someone doing what Sudmann described as, “a very ambitious move from the Kama Sutra.” The two then broke into hysterics.
My Lucky Tummy provides an environment where these kinds of ‘found in translation’ moments can happen over good food.
“It’s about getting people from wildly different places to rub shoulders and talk to each other,” Sudmann said. “Because heterogeneity is the spice of life.”
Events take place every February and October—the most recent October event took place at the Alibrandi Catholic Center at Syracuse University.