1. From the passion to the launch
SAMOSA NYC was launched in early 2018, yet the passion and samosa making starting long before.
As a little girl, I use to watch my grandmother, mother, aunties as they prepared lavish feasts for family gatherings and professional functions. No matter what the occasion, the food was at the center of each event. During events in Sudan, basically every Friday meant the family gathered. I watched the women come together in the kitchen and prepare a variety of dishes and each get praised for their recipes. Weddings were especially a major kitchen operation. Sambuxas were a must for the holidays, especially for breaking the fast during Ramadan. I believe every Sudanese woman is capable of running a commercial kitchen, composing a menu, dividing tasks and executing an event with elaborate hosting skills. When my grandparents moved to New York, my grandmother Gladys still hosted amazing parties and though we had moved to Switzerland, we spent all our summers and Christmas holidays in New York. That meant we didn't miss out on our grandmothers amazing cooking skills. During Christmas, everyone looked forward to delicious Haitian dishes and was eagerly awaiting the desserts.
When I finally moved to Geneva for college, I found myself preparing food for my roommates. I’m not going to call them out, but as a Swiss person, I was shocked that my roommate didn’t know how to prepare pasta. I was then in charge of snacks whenever we had movie nights or dinner parties. No dinner party could happen without samosas. Many friends and party attendees encouraged me to launch a catering business and so I did. I had been catering parties on a weekly basis my then. In Switzerland, the laws at the time permitted cooking from home for sale during a trial period. No idea how long that was in actuality, but it was an excellent trial period. One weekend I had prepared dinner for my family and my mother praised my food, I now had her seal of approval and started believing that my own food was amazing.
I was interning at a UN organization and my boss at the time was kind enough to let me leave at 11am to go to a friend's place to prepare for lunch orders. This enabled me to pay my rent with ease and allowed for some lucky offices to have a Sudanese culinary adventure. My Samosa company shut down its operations after graduation. My customers were not amused, yet last time I checked a Kenyan young man going by the name of Mister Samosa is providing Kenyan Samosas to the Geneva population.
Once my contract had expired in D.C., I had no plans and was somewhat lost, I applied to multiple positions, yet only got interviews and was somewhat discouraged. Given my qualifications I had never had any trouble finding a job, I dismissed it being due to the U.S. application style. I was in fight or flight mode. It was between me going back to Switzerland, going back home, which I wasn’t keen on as I have kept coming back to the U.S. I wanted to stay in New York. I always wanted to launch a food business and this was a perfect time as I had no job and no immediate obligations. New York is the perfect place to launch such a business. There are so many foodies and people are used to food from around the world and aren’t shy to try different cuisines.
I was speaking to my best friend about launching my food business and she thought it was a great idea as she was thinking of launching a business of her own. My Bestie told me that she had signed up for design classes in London and a light bulb went off for me. If there were classes in London, New York must have a ton. I researched and stumbled upon the Small Business Services across the 5 boroughs. Hence in Fall of 2017, I began taking business classes on how to launch a business in New York. what were the requirements, what documents were needed and what their costs were. I strongly encourage anyone thinking of following their passion to attend these classes that are free of charge.
Once I knew what the necessary steps were to launch, I used every single paycheck from my multiple hustles to purchase equipment, pay commercial kitchen membership, purchase marketing materials and pay market fees. Before I knew my first market was on March 3rd, 2018, the made by hands Market. It was a disaster honestly in terms of time management and presentation, but the customers loved the Samosas which encouraged me to not give up.
Read more about SAMOSA NYC’s Market experiences in next weeks blog post.
My experiences as a Sous Chef didn't begin until I was about 8 years old. I was however always curious about food and always hovered in the kitchen watching especially my mother prepare things. By then I could only prepare simple dishes and peal/ cut onions and garlic. One evening my father asked me to prepare chicken for dinner. I looked perplexed and told him I had no idea how to. In shock, he proceeded to show me how to prepare the chicken step by step. Though my mother had shown me multiple times, this time I had to wash, soak the chicken in salt and lemon juice, season it and place it in the oven all by myself. I was so very proud. This raised my interest in cooking immensely. I started experimenting.
My mother would cater our birthday parties, as well as host Sudanese cooking classes. I loved helping out with those events, they were African themed events, accompanied by yearly visits by a Tuareg tribesman in Zurich. Because the quantities of Samosa making were larger than usual, my mother allowed me to help her out with preparing the Samosas. Soon I was faster in preparing Samosas, than mom, however, they were not as neat.
When I moved to Bordeaux for my graduate degree I then continued the practice of being the Samosa provider and caterer along with new friends from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. After Bordeaux, I moved to New York and DC, my jobs were demanding. During this time I attended multiple food festivals such as Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Flea and Midtown popups…In the back of my head, something told me, you could do this, this looks fun, you are outdoors, with people and making your food, you would be doing what you love and get to spend time outdoors rather than indoors.
I consider this the time my passion spoke to me loudly, it was only a matter of time as I recognized what my soul yearned for. I saw that some food street fairs had some of the same products multiple times. In some cases 4 Empanada vendors on just two block. As Sudanese food wasn’t as popular or well known in New York, I saw an opportunity.
I started going to more festivals and researching where produce could be purchased in wholesale. There was no real timeline, just brainstorming during downtime on the job or on weekends. Once I moved to DC after the elections, I had dropped the idea and focused on the work at hand given the election outcome. I was looking to establish myself in D.C. and pursue, my other passion: Politics.