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The Pivot Point

BeBe’s Kitchen: Babita Verma empowers refugee women to share their culinary heritage


Cover photo: Babita Verma (center) during a cooking demonstration on Indian breads.

Babita Verma curates cooking experiences steeped in the stories and memories of our ancestors. Sometimes she steps into the kitchen; at other times, it is one of her 12 partner chefs, each encapsulating flavors and techniques passed down through the generations.

“Nothing speaks louder than the universal language of food. By giving women chefs who arrive in the U.S. as refugees a chance to showcase cuisine weaving together heritage recipes and familial tapestry, we create an incredible learning opportunity,” Verma said.

Combining her nonprofit career with her love for cooking, Verma started her social enterprise, BeBe’s Kitchen, paving a path for women refugees to form an edible narrative of family, culture, and tradition. Founded in 2020, BeBe’s Kitchen organizes cooking classes and food pop-ups with immigrant and refugee women chefs.

Having experienced the immigrant journey to the U.S. herself eight years ago, Verma understands why moving to pursue change is meaningful. “The journey from a fearful past to a safer, better future can be full of obstacles in pursuit of a new life,” Verma noted. Language and transportation barriers are two of the larger ones that new refugees face, especially those forced from their homes due to war, conflict, or persecution. Verma’s own immigrant story was more of a choice, as her husband accepted a new role at a U.S.-based company. “We moved as a family unit [Verma, her husband, and their two children], but it was incredibly lonely and intensely challenging. On top of that, I wasn’t able to get a job because of H-4 visa restrictions,” Verma said.

Before the family immigrated from Bangalore, Verma had a fulfilling career in India’s nonprofit sector. Her love for traveling made it natural for her to do fundraising, opening doors for her to learn about different parts of India and adding fresh perspectives. Traveling offered an incredible opportunity to explore new and exciting flavors, but more importantly, it showed her how an accommodating seat at a table was always served with an abundance of healthy food and love. She used this as one of the pillars to start BeBe’s Kitchen—making room at the table so people from different backgrounds can come together and share their love of food.

Taking a work break after her first-born, Verma began learning family heritage recipes from her mother and mother-in-law. “Making our family’s heirloom recipes was not only about cooking from an ingredient list, but it held symbolic meaning. Working with my hands on different iterations of how the recipe evolved through the generations was like preserving culinary gems,” Verma said admiringly. Her love for cooking intensified because she found that underneath the flavors and techniques lies a storytelling medium offering a taste of history passed down through the generations.

After moving to Atlanta in 2016, Verma returned to her nonprofit roots and began volunteering. Completing courses at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Verma wanted to work for a cause close to her heart—helping immigrants and refugees. Currently, her full-time role is Manager for the nonprofit New American Pathways, leading volunteerism and community outreach.

Once a month, Verma’s social enterprise BeBe’s Kitchen gathers patrons at Decatur Recreation Kitchen for a cooking demonstration featuring a different country’s chef and their cuisine. It gives exposure to budding chefs and, as Verma explains, provides a path to a possible career in the food industry. To date, Verma has organized close to 35 cooking and pop-up events in collaboration with 12 local chefs, including women from Nigeria, Lebanon, Ukraine, and Venezuela.

“BeBe in Punjabi means grandmother/elder. It’s about carrying forward stories of survival, celebration, and everyday life infused with ample love and, of course, lots and lots of food,” Verma explains. “As so many ‘BeBe’s’ opened their hearts and homes for me, I’d like to make it full circle by showcasing partner chefs cooking their authentic heritage recipes learned from their BeBe’s. It’s an homage to cherished recipes and time-honored techniques, bridging together kitchen cultures and food traditions.”

BeBe’s Kitchen’s next cooking class is Flavors of Lebanon with Chef Jihan Nasir. Click here for more information.

*Neha Negandhi is a Mental Health Strategist, Certified Life Coach, TEDx speaker, and podcast host. Visit her website for upcoming mental well-being events and more at

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