The culinary arts have been Monica Wachira's passion since she started learning to cook at age 5. She went on to study catering, and has worked in restaurants for more than 10 years. Her love of preparing and sharing healthy food led her to join our Food Business Incubator and launch her own business, Monique’s Hot Kitchen, this spring. Check out Monique’s Hot Kitchen’s catering menu, and find Monica at FIN’s Taste Around the Globe booth at the Federal Way Farmers Market on July 6, and at our new Tukwila Village Farmers Market on July 3. (Stay tuned for more Taste Around the Globe dates.) You can also meet Monica at our Food and Fashion Makers Night fundraising event, where FIN food businesses will offer up samples of their delicious cuisine. In the meantime, enjoy our Q&A with Monica!
Tell us about your business.Monique’s Hot Kitchen is a catering business making authentic Kenyan food.
What inspired you to start Monique’s Hot Kitchen?Every time people come to my house, I cook for them and serve them as if they’re in a restaurant. They like my hospitality and they are happy about my food. They say, “Wow, I felt like I was in a five-star restaurant! You should open a restaurant!” They see that this is my passion. When you do something you love, it will come out perfect. I make food with love, and I take pride in what I do in the kitchen.
What makes Monique’s Hot Kitchen different from other food businesses?[caption id="attachment_2984" align="alignright" width="300"] Monique's Hot Kitchen's pilau rice, mukimo, and samosas.[/caption] I make food from scratch using natural ingredients, and fresh, high-quality spices. I can taste the difference between natural and unnatural food. [Where I grew up] in Kenya you could grow things in the garden and take them straight to the kitchen -- no GMOs. That’s what I like, and why I use organic food. I want to feed people healthy food. There is so much disease these days caused by unhealthy food.
What do you like most about your work?I love it when I know I’ve done the best job, and my customers are satisfied.
What have been the biggest challenges in launching your business? What resources have helped?The challenges have been figuring out where to start, how to start, choosing my business name, and accessing capital! Connecting with FIN and getting coaching from Kerrie Carbary have been a big help.
What would you say to other aspiring food business owners?Go for what you believe in, don’t give up, and look for resources around you. FIN is a great resource – you can’t go wrong working with them.
Over the last few weeks, we've shared videos profiling each of our Food Business Incubator program participants. It's time for our fifth and final video, which features Mamá Tila Catering: Ofelia named Mamá Tila after her mother, who was known as the best cook in her town. Ofelia takes her time preparing authentic dishes from across Mexico, including many of her mother’s recipes. Check out Mamá Tila’s menu! And if you haven't yet seen all of our business profile videos, catch up now:
It's time for another video in our profile series of FIN food businesses! This week we're featuring Taste of Congo: The only Congolese food business in our region, Taste of Congo offers a one-of-a-kind experience! Founder Caroline encourages you to try her beignets, which can be enjoyed any time of day. Check out Taste of Congo's menu, and stay tuned for more videos in our business profile series.
It's time for the second video in our FIN food business profile series! This week we are featuring Naija Buka: Chef Lilian makes delicious, authentic Nigerian cuisine. Try Naija Buka's popular jollof rice, as well as fried plantains, peppersoup, puff-puffs, and more. Check out their pop-up event at Project Feast's Ubuntu Street Café on March 9! Can't wait that long to get your fix? Visit Naija Buka's new website to see their menu and make your order. Then stay tuned for the next video in our business profile series.
We're excited to share the first of five videos profiling FIN Food Business Incubator participants! This week the spotlight is on Soozveen Mediterranean Catering. Sisters Sheelan and Zozan founded Soozveen because they wanted to share family recipes and stories. Try their dolmas, hummus, falafel, and other dishes made from scratch and flavored with the spices of Northern Iraq. And don't forget dessert -- their baklava and jasmine cookies are out of this world! Check out Soozveen’s menu, learn more about our Food Business Incubator, and stay tuned for videos featuring Sherehe Kenya Kitchen, Naija Buka, Mamá Tila Catering, and Taste of Congo coming out over the next four weeks!
As we closed Namaste Farm Stand’s second season with a celebration dinner, community members told us about their experiences at the stand. Hear what they had to say in our new video: Maria told us that easy access to fresh vegetables helped her control her diabetes. Clo said that her body was healing, and that she also felt better in mind and spirit. Melody shared that she’d lost 60 pounds in the five months since she started visiting the farm stand. She said she learned about nutrition from our partners at WSU Extension’s Food $ense, who provided cooking demonstrations at our Tukwila location. [caption id="attachment_2607" align="aligncenter" width="500"] WSU Extension's Food $ense team and FIN staff provided a total of 28 demos of how to turn farm stand produce into delicious meals and snacks. Bike blender smoothies facilitated by Anna from Food $ense were always popular items.[/caption] Maria, Clo, and Melody were among hundreds of community members who visited Namaste Farm Stand in Tukwila and SeaTac this season, which ran from early June until late October. We sold fruits, vegetables, and herbs from local producers including IRC New Roots’ Community Garden (Tukwila), Faith Beyond Farms (Enumclaw), and Collins Family Orchard (Selah) at affordable prices. [caption id="attachment_2609" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Community members who grow food at New Roots' Namaste Community Garden helped prepare our celebration dinner.[/caption] The farm stand launched in 2017 with 10 farm stand days at Matt Griffin YMCA in SeaTac. In 2018, we added a second location at Tukwila Village Plaza and extended the number of stand days to 39. In August, we were approved to accept SNAP/EBT, and began doubling customers’ EBT dollars through the Fresh Bucks program. Namaste Farm Stand is operated by Food Innovation Network and International Rescue Committee’s New Roots program with support from the City of Tukwila, Kona Kai, Communities of Opportunity, Les Dames d’ Escoffier, Matt Griffin YMCA, SHAG, and WSU Extension. Thanks to our partners, food producers, and customers for a fantastic season! We look forward to starting our third season in June of 2019. [caption id="attachment_2608" align="aligncenter" width="500"] We had a great time eating fresh produce with our wonderful community at our celebration dinner.[/caption]
Incubator program participant Ofelia Anorve brings authentic dishes from across Mexico to the Seattle area. Check out Mamá Tila's catering menu, and read on for our Q & A with Ofelia. Tell us about your business. My business specializes in traditional Mexican food. How did get the idea for your business? A lot of people would tell me that my food was really good, and I should have my own business. Also, there was a lack of traditional Mexican food in the Seattle area. What makes you different from other catering companies? I take my time when I cook my food, and I do it with love. What do you like best about your work? What I think is best about my work is seeing people enjoy my food. What is something people might be surprised to learn about you or your business? I think people would be surprised to learn that my food is authentic, fresh, delicious and healthy. What’s your business’ biggest challenge? My biggest challenge is that if my business is growing fast, I can be under stress since I am running it alone. What would you say to other small food business owners thinking of working with FIN? I would say that FIN is really helpful and you learn a lot. Contact Ofelia: (206) 265-9746 or email@example.com
We're excited to introduce you to incubator program participant Caroline Musitu! Her new business, Taste of Congo, has been a hit at farmers markets in Renton and Federal Way this summer. Visit her at a farmers market, check out Taste of Congo's catering menu, and read on for our Q & A with Caroline. Tell us about your business. My business is a catering food service. I cook African food -- Congolese food. I make samosas, rice with vegetables, goat, chicken, salad, French donuts called beignets, and more. What inspired you to start this business? I am from Congo, from Kinshasa, a beautiful city where people like to dance and to eat. There’s lots of parties and celebration. When I was young, my mom used to do catering for weddings, parties, and church; I used to help her make things. But when I came here, my Congolese community would just cook food on their own for events. I said, Why not start a business cooking for them? Special events like weddings happen once in your life, and you have to have food that wows! What makes you different from other catering companies? I have the only Congolese food business in the area! Once people try Congolese food, they’ll know it’s good. It’s very fresh and healthy, too. What do you like best about your work? When my food makes people happy. What is something people might be surprised to learn about you or your business? I’ve cooked since I was 10 years old. When people visited, I’d go to the kitchen and cook for them. My siblings don’t like to cook, but I love it. My mom showed me how to cook, but I like to invent new recipes; I don’t like to do the same thing, I want to keep it fresh and different. What’s your business’ biggest challenge? I’m learning how the market works, and how to present Congolese food to people who aren’t Congolese. What services or programs have been helpful? Ventures and FIN have helped with the business side: the formal lessons, marketing, calculation, prices. What would you say to other small food business owners thinking of working with FIN? FIN are good people to work with; they help us small businesses to get started, grow, and even become big businesses. Contact Caroline: 206.778.5615, firstname.lastname@example.org, Taste of Congo on Facebook
At the end of last year, we sent several advocates to the Community Food Systems Conference. Here's what they learned...
My general perception is that the conference central topics were farming and projects/programs related to farming. One of the workshops that I attended talked about doing partnerships with churches that have land to offer farming opportunities for low-income families. I am convinced that FIN has to be innovative in building new partnerships.
I noticed that most of the non-profits had white board members but serve immigrant and refugee communities. I like that FIN is inclusive and gives the opportunity to advocates to be part of the steering committee and being part of the voices that make decisions. However, we do need to have more visibility in the community. I think that seeing from others and learning from other organizations around will give us the opportunity to improve FIN work. I am proud about FIN diversity in the steering committee and community/partners - our mission and vision are led by the people that we serve. I like that we are listened to as FIN Advocates. The advocates are the most authentic members of FIN, they are the connection with the community and their needs.
-Jaqueline Garcia, FIN Advocate