Stepping Stone Cafe is a social enterprise business that employs migrant and refugee women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Canberra couple Vanessa Brettell and Hannah Costello started the business to give a headstart to women who might otherwise face language and cultural barriers to employment.
Hannah and Vanessa started their first Stepping Stone project in Cartagena, Colombia, but when COVID-19 forced them to return home, they set up shop in the historic Strathnairn Homestead.
Since 2020 they’ve been serving a vegetarian and vegan-friendly brunch menu focusing on locally sourced ingredients. As their staff gain confidence and experience, they can add their own flair to the dishes and incorporate some of their own cultures into the menu. During the warmer months, Stepping Stone also holds wood-fired pizza nights on Friday evenings, and they also run the coffee van at the nearby Ginninderry GX display village.
On Saturday (23 April), they are hosting a Feast For Freedom dinner. All profits go to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), an independent, community-led organisation supporting people seeking asylum in Australia. ASRC offers 40 programs including education, employment support, food banks and accommodation. ASRC relies on volunteer support and donations from the community to continue its work supporting around 7000 refugees and asylum seekers each year.
The Feast For Freedom is an annual fundraiser that uses food to bring people together for a good cause. Hannah, who runs the kitchen at Stepping Stone, has teamed up with Sweet Bones chef Rina Miyata to create a five-course plant-based menu for the event. Rina came into Stepping Stone as a customer and quickly got chatting with Hannah and Vanessa, which prompted this collaboration. Rina and Hannah will be cooking on the night with the support of several members of the Stepping Stone team.
Seasonal ingredients will feature in creative dishes like tapioca crackers with persimmon fritters and king oyster mushroom betel leaf wrap, and the chestnut ravioli with orange burnt butter sauce. Dessert will be a custard caramel mille-feuille and vanilla cashew ice cream. Diners can also BYO beer, wine, or sparkling at no extra charge to accompany their meal.
Stepping Stone currently employs 14 women in a mix of casual, part-time and full-time work. Their work hours are flexible around other commitments like study or family care and are focussed on building confidence, developing practical skills, and giving a sense of belonging in the community. For many women employed at Stepping Stone, this is their first paid work in Australia.
The dinner will be held at Strathnairn Arts, an ACT Government-supported not-for-profit that provides studio and gallery spaces at the landmark Strathnairn Homestead in Ginninderry.
With views over the Brindabella Ranges and unique artworks hanging from every wall in the cafe, this promises to be a beautiful location for this special event.
Tickets for the Feast For Freedom at Cafe Stepping Stone are $95 and include a five-course, plant-based meal with three beverages. Bookings are essential and dietary requirements must be provided before the event.