Inspiring Expats: Kenden Alfond, hungry for Jewish food in Cambodia

This week's Inspiring Expat story is a mouthwatering treat that will surely leave you feeling hungry. I talked to Kenden Alfond of Jewish Food Hero.

There I was, living in Cambodia and the only Jewish person for miles, a week before Purim, desperately Googling to find a Jewish holiday menu that was healthy and inspirational.
— Kenden Alfond, Jewish Food Hero

Jewish Food Hero is stunning, beautiful and captivating like its founder Kenden Alfond. The gorgeous photography, well thought-out design and smart business techniques had me in raptures. I had to find out more. You just know I was thrilled beyond belief when I discovered that Kenden is an expat giving me the perfect reason to get in touch.

Kenden lives in Cambodia where she works as a psychotherapist supporting aid workers. She's co-founder of the NGO Aid Worker, which would be enough for most people. Kenden is one of those exceptional people who pushes her boundaries and achieves more than the average person. As she said to me when we spoke earlier this week being an expat, living overseas as an aid worker can be lonely and isolating. Aid workers face a unique set of difficulties  - dealing with the politics of the organisation they work for, constantly having to navigate professional and personal relationships in a multicultural context , often in transition as they move from post to post, emotionally draining work and a whole host of other issues. 

After a stressful day at the 'office' you want to come home and enjoy a bowl of your favourite comfort food. That isn't quite as easy when you're a health-conscious Jewish person living in a third world country. It was after the birth of her daughter that Kenden started to feel the longing for her heritage more keenly.  She started Jewish Food Hero out of yearning and she wanted to turn that feeling into something positive for herself and others.  

The site covers food, menus and traditions for Jewish holidays. The beautiful calendar pictured above shows how many there are in a year. Kenden felt frustrated that Jewish food is traditionally heavy, oily and kind of unhealthy. She felt it didn't reflect the younger generation's approach to cooking and eating. Jewish Food Hero therefore was a massive undertaking both in terms of the recipes and ingredients and how to present it in a way that modern families would enjoy using. She knew she couldn't do it alone so she turned to design studio One Plus One to turn her vision into reality.

In a fabulous behind-the-scenes blog post the designers talk about the complexity of bringing the project to fruition. It was a real team effort with "lengthy branding talks" with Kenden, the hiring of food photographers, a copywriter and a web developer to make the site look amazing and work seamlessly.

Kenden's plant-based recipes can be purchased from the Jewish Food Hero website as individual menus according to the holiday you wish to celebrate or as a six menu package with a discount. A portion of sales goes to charity, 

"By shopping here, you’re giving back to the Jewish community."

Also on the site are free worksheets to print so you can plan and spend your holidays stress-free, to focus on the memories you're creating with your family. There are also pages which serve to educate on the significance and history of the holidays. 

I asked Kenden what else she had in store for the site. She told me she's working to develop more menus and other ways to serve the community. One of the ideas she has is to produce some of the fabulous custom-designed artwork in poster form - I love that idea.

The heavy lifting isn't over. It's up to Kenden now to promote her business to ensure its success. The site was just launched late last year and has already had some excellent media coverage. It's been well-received by Jewish and non-Jewish women like myself which is great to hear. Kenden keeps the interest level high by posting inspiring photos and intriguing questions to Facebook and has also been running Instagram contests to engage more readers and hopefully customers. She did admit that all the new technology is still overwhelming but she feels confident that she's on the right track. I think so too.

Another thing we talked about was how much personality to share on the site or via social media. This is something that comes up a lot but I always tell my clients to do what feels comfortable and to establish your own personal boundaries. Ultimately people will feel more loyalty to your brand if they feel a personal connection to you but being an online public figure doesn't have to be a confessional of your every move. Simply knowing that you're a mum or that you're an expat is often enough for me to take notice and feel more interest in your project or business idea. Having something in common with a real person (not a faceless business) is the clincher for me.

I'd love it if you would show your support for a fellow expat mom doing inspiring things. Visit Kenden's page, Jewish Food Hero, join the mailing list (with freebies) and follow on social media. Last but not least Like and Share this article. Thanks! and thanks Kenden for agreeing to meet with me and share your story.

Jacqui Miyabayashi