San Diego's Non-Profit Restaurant Make Café Trains Low Income & Immigrants For Job Readiness

April 13, 2022

Make Café is a new, San Diego-based nonprofit restaurant concept where low-income refugee and immigrant women & youth gain job readiness skills to prepare them for the workforce. 

Founded by executive director Anchi Mei, who started MAKE Projects as a pilot employment social enterprise within International Rescue Committee back in 2017, Make Cafe is a restaurant concept to bring the non-profit's vision to life. In addition to offering a menu of "globally-inspired, locally-sourced" cuisine, the cafe serves as an important job readiness platform for participants who work in the kitchen, café and farm. 

"Our vision is globally-diverse, socially-inclusive San Diego that elevates immigrant voices and brings people together across cultural lines around a common love of food," explained Make Cafe founder Anchi Mei. "Our restaurant celebrates the culinary background of our refugee and immigrant job training participants, and combines their flavors and homecooking techniques with the best of local ingredients from our own farm and other San Diego farmers and fisherfolk. All the restaurant proceeds go back to sustaining the program. Our motto is Eat Well, Do Good."

At Make Café  the trainees enter into a six to 12-week paid work experience to build their resume, learn skills and then Make Project's employment team helps them find jobs after they graduate from the program. For many, this is their very first job so the company creates a warm, inclusive space for the mostly-refugee and immigrant women and youth participants to gain real skills and grow their confidence.

In 2019, Chef Andrew Gerdes joined the Make Projects while it was still primarily a small catering company doing sandwiches and veggie platters. Andrew has 15+ years of culinary training and fine dining experience in New York City. When the pandemic hit, Andrew helped craft the restaurant vision and the adult training program put out a weekly takeaway family meal that featured a different country and did not repeat a menu for a whole year. Today, the MAKE Café is a whole team of staff ranging from farming, restaurant/hospitality, nonprofit social work as well as amazing industry advisors. 

Make Cafe is entirely outdoors and located within an urban farm in North Park. The restaurant'sThursday dinner menu includes an Afghan Yogurt-Marinated Chicken, a Nigerian Suya Spiced Beer, Somali Xawaash Spiced Butternut Squash and a Za’atar Spiced Grilled Mediterranean Cheese. The Persian Smashburger and North African Shakshuka are big hits at the Saturday brunch. All of the food is cooked over an open outdoor grill. The cafe also serves wine, beer and mixed drinks. Customers can take a free urban farm tour before our after their meal and learn about the more than 50 different vegetables, herbs and flowers growing onsite. There’s also farm stand with product for purchase like infused oils, vinegars, syrups and balms, all created by the youth trainees and using farm ingredients.

Make Cafe is open Thursdays from 5:30pm to 7:30pm and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm at 3745 30th Street in San Diego's North Park. For more information, visit