Lebanese chef among those featured in new TV Series Celebrating Diversity in Maine
“Elevating Voices” airs Thursday night, featuring Adrian Espinoza, owner of Empanada Club, alongside Katherine Slevin, Iman Enan and Ange Bonheur of C. Love Cookie Project
Food, for many, holds its own culture, story and meaning. Bolivian native Adrian Espinoza creates delicious fresh and frozen empanadas to share his culture with the community, while Katherine Slevin, Iman Enan, and Ange Bonheur bake cookies to create community and share culture among immigrants in Maine.
These local business owners bring history, culture and visions for the future to the community in Portland, where their hard work, determination and contributions make Maine the special place it is. Now their stories will be shared during the third episode of the Maine Public Television series “Elevating Voices” on Thursday, May 13th.
Viewers will learn about the incredible work and life of Espinoza, founder and head chef of Empanada Club in Portland, and the C. Love Cookie Project team, which is comprised of founder Slevin, head baker Enan, and cookie production lead Bonheur. The series, brought to the region by Greenlight Maine and Bangor Savings Bank, is highlighting diversity in Maine businesses to celebrate the often-unsung heroes who are enriching, expanding and driving Maine’s culture, community and economy.
Espinoza left his family and friends in Bolivia in 2015 to claim his piece of the American dream. He and his wife quickly discovered that empanadas, the savory hand pies that are abundant in Bolivia, were in scarce supply in Maine. With the support of the restaurant community, Espinoza quickly overcame language and cultural barriers and began making empanadas and other Bolivian treats and selling them at farmers markets, and in breweries around Portland, which built up a following for his food. His carrot salsa – a tomato-free topping that also includes apple cider vinegar, peppers, and fresh herbs – was such a hit that he began to package and sell it alongside the empanadas.
“If you’re an immigrant in Bolivia, good luck,” Espinoza explains. “But here, I really feel connected. I try to go to the farmers markets and really connect with the people that are interested. It tells me that they want to get involved. I think it’s a really nice way to open your business to Maine’s community that will help it grow.”
In his business venture, Empanada Club, Espinoza plans to enrich that community, by expanding on Maine’s Latin American cuisine, and supporting local farmers and food makers. Espinoza is proud to source 60% of his ingredients locally in an effort to grow and support the entrepreneur community in Maine that welcomed him.
Growing up in a Lebanese-American household, Slevin had a life-long love for pastries. After moving to Maine in 2013 and volunteering in a refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece, Slevin wanted to give her passion for pastries a newfound purpose. So, she founded C. Love Cookie Project, a play on words encouraging people to “see love” each time they step into the kitchen, and an ode to the three C’s in Slevin’s life: Christ, community, and, of course, cookies. Slevin employs and teaches immigrants in Maine the art of cookie making, and build a network of support, friendship, and love along the way. Enan joined C. Love almost immediately, bringing her Iraqi culture, and many talents from photography and psychology to her work. Ange, meaning “angel” in Ange Bonheur’s native French, came to the U.S. from Rwanda with her daughter and now plans to return to Rwanda to start her own business, with the knowledge and skills she’s acquired at C. Love Cookie Project.
“I always say that I couldn’t start C. Love anywhere else,” says Slevin. “Being in Portland and seeing its diversity, seeing how the community gets around each other. That’s been huge for me. And I feel like that’s such a strong community.”
With a goal to support and help the immigrant community in Maine, 21% of C. Love proceeds go to nonprofits like ShifaME, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, The Telling Room, Catholic Charities, Preemptive Love, Way of Life Mission, Portland Adult Education and the Root Cellar. In the coming year, Slevin aims to open a pastry school for immigrant women.
Slevin, Enan, Bonheur and Espinoza will grant viewers a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the challenges, triumphs, and importance of diverse business owners in Maine. The series premiered on Thursday, April 29, featuring Thomas Douglas, founding partner of law firm Douglas, McDaniel & Campo LLC, PA, and Ebenezer Akakpo of Akakpo Designs. The second episode, which aired on Thursday, May 6, featured Adele Masengo Ngoy, founder of Adele Masengo Designs and owner of Antoine’s Tailor Shop and Formal Wear, and Jason Brown and Donna Decontie-Brown, founders and creative engines behind Decontie & Brown. Watch the series premier here and the second episode here.
The “Elevating Voices” series is underwritten by Bangor Savings Bank and produced by Greenlight Maine. Along with the visibility, each featured business owner is receiving a $5,000 gift from Bangor Savings Bank.
“At Bangor Savings Bank, we are deeply committed to heightening and expanding our DEI promise by finding innovative ways to support Maine communities and our small businesses throughout the pandemic and beyond,” said Isla Dickerson, Executive Producer and Co-Creator of Elevating Voices, and SVP and Director of Marketing & Community Relations at Bangor Savings Bank. “‘Elevating Voices’ is the result of the longstanding racial injustices in our country that were intensified by the events over the past year, the pandemic, the fact that our small businesses – the lifeblood of our economy and way of life in Maine – were struggling to survive, and the clear need to elevate and support diverse businesses and their tremendous contributions to the state. We are proud to have worked with Greenlight Maine to create and bring this tremendous series to life.”
How to Watch
Viewers can tune in at 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays to one of the following Maine Public Television stations: WCBB 10 Augusta, WMEB-TV 12 Orono, WMED-TV 10 Calais, WMEM-TV 10 Presque Isle and WMEA-TV 45 Biddeford. The series will be rebroadcasted on Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Visit the ‘Elevating Voices’ Facebook or Instagram, or https://greenlightmaine.com/ to learn more about the series and this year’s incredible honorees.
About Bangor Savings Bank
Bangor Savings Bank, with more than $6 billion in assets, offers retail banking to consumers as well as comprehensive commercial, corporate, payroll administration, merchant services, and small business banking services to businesses. The Bank, founded in 1852, is in its 169th year with more than 60 branches in Maine and New Hampshire and business offices in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The Bangor Savings Bank Foundation was created in 1997. Together the Bank and its Foundation invested more than $3.4 million into the community in the form of sponsorships, grants, and partnership initiatives last year. Bangor Savings Bank is an equal opportunity employer and can be found on the Web at www.bangor.com. Member FDIC.
About Greenlight Maine
Greenlight Maine is a statewide collaboration of entrepreneurial catalysts and corporate leaders. The television and internet series is designed to highlight, promote and encourage the development and growth of entrepreneurial businesses in Maine by showcasing the unique, creative and inspirational activity that is being generated by small businesses. In doing so, the program encourages investment in these companies while inspiring others to grow Maine’s economy. Now in its sixth season, Greenlight Maine has a new home on Maine Public Television. In addition to its original Head-to-Head Series and recent College Edition, Greenlight Maine has added Elevating Voices, a new series that celebrates minority-owned business owners and their importance to Maine’s economy