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Courage Wissink

Courage Wissink, owner of African Food Palace (8918 S Commercial Ave) shares how a dream and a local grocery store brought her first restaurant to fruition on Commercial Ave. "you gotta be here ... I need to be here... these people need to know what my food is all about... I want people [here] to see something different"



Transcript: (English, Edo, Espanol, Nigerian Pidgin)

English

So, prior to me coming to Chicago I had a dream-- and in that dream I had five locations for my restaurant. I started looking for a restaurant and I would have gone to Dallas, Texas or St Louis Missouri. I really liked a place in St Louis in Hazelwood. I looked at this building-- it's okay but I never really could see past just the building so I was like okay, let me keep looking. So I came to Chicago. So guess what I came to Chicago for? to buy goat head!

for real.. the only place that sells it is across the street the way I like it because most places when you go buy your goat head you got to buy it as a whole and go deal with it but here, they chop it up. I drive all the way out here, that's five, well, 5 and a half hours. So, I bought my goat meat, came out, and I was coming over cuz I parked right in front here and I saw this sign: "FOR SALE," and I stood there and I looked at it and I looked at it I was like that's it-for real. and I I'll go back one step. Actually, I ordered food I don't want to mention from another place that sells African food and I ate that food in the car and I told myself you got to be here- for real said I need to be here these people need to know what, you know, my food is all about I want people to here to see something different. So I looked at this sign and I called the owner and I said "I want to look at this building" he said um "it's for sale" I said "I know but I want to talk to you" [owner] what do you do? I said "I want to open up an African restaurant" [owner] do you have one already? I said "no but I promise you for real believe me, I I said, I promise you if you give me I'll make you proud. I said you would be impressed you would not regret it" she said "well it's for sale" and I said "well if I rent this place I'm going to buy it from you" so we schedule an appointment and I came up here right and I looked at the building it was a hot mess and I knew I could do something with it cuz I tell people all they got to do is come try the food, you know what I mean, just come try and if you don't like it hey, you don't have to come back but I can promise you you're going to like it and there's one thing I can tell you about my food everything you see here is made from scratch yes cuz for me that's how I eat I don't like canned food I like healthy food so I told myself if I'm going to have a restaurant I want people to eat the way we eat back and you know in Africa no filters you know no shortcut that's why it takes so long to make it but when you're eating it it's on natural is healthy for you and that's what African Food Palace is all about.


Edo

Nóvbè, òvbókhan rre òwàe dé Chicago, òmwan rẹn èbè-- àti èbè ná, òmwan rẹn ùghòn ọxọnwa fọr mìn rre òtinmwẹ. Òmwan ṣtárt rre ọ̀wá òtinmwẹ àti òmwan ná yè gbe gíá dé Dallas, Texas tàbi St Louis Missouri. Òmwan hẹn sò pláís ní St Louis ná Hazelwood. Òmwan lóòk àti bílídín ná-- ókàí but òmwan nèvà ríalí kúd sii pás jùst bílídín sò òmwan wá like ókàí, lét mì kíp lóòkín.

Sò òmwan dé Chicago. Sò, gèss wétìn òmwan dé Chicago fọr? Tó báy góát héd! Fọr ríal... òní pléis dát sẹl dè wéi ì like ìt, ís àkrọs dí strít, békọs mòst pléises wẹn yù gó báy yò góát héd, yù gòt tó báy ìt às a hól ànd gó díl wít ìt but híà, dèi chọ́p ìt úp.

Òmwan dráìv òl dè wéi ọ̀t híà, dát's fáiv, wèl, 5 ànd a háf áwàs. Sò, òmwan bọ́t mì góát míàt, kém ọ̀t, ànd òmwan wás kọ́mín ọ̀và kúz òmwan pák ríát in frọnt híà ànd òmwan sáw dìs sáin: "FOR SALE," ànd òmwan stùd dèr ànd òmwan lóòkéd àt ìt.

Òmwan wás like dát's ìt- fọr ríal. Ànd òmwan'll gó bák ọn stèp.

Àctúali, òmwan ọrdà fúd ì dọ̀n't wánt tó ménshọn, frọm ánọdà pléis dát sẹls Àfrícàn fúd ànd òmwan àt dát fúd in dí kár, ànd òmwan tọld mísélf "yù gót tó bè híà- fọr ríal."

Dís péopl níd tó knów wétin, yù knów. Knów wétin mì fúd ìs òll àbọut. Òmwan wánt péopl híà tó sii sọmtín díffèrènt.

Sò òmwan lóòkéd àt dís sáin ànd òmwan kálld dí ọ́wnà ànd òmwan sáid "Ì wánt tó lóòk àt dís bílídín" hí sáid ùm, "ìt's fọr sálé."

Òmwan sáid "Ì knów, but ì wánt tó tọ́k tó yù"

[owner] Wétin yù dó?

Òmwan sáid "Ì wánt tó ọ́pèn úp àn Àfrícàn rẹstránt."

[owner] Yù hàv ọn àlrẹdi?

Òmwan sáid, "nò, but ì prọmís yù, fọr r íal, bélív mì, íf yù gív mì, ì'll mák yù próud. Òmwan sáid yù wud bè ímpréssd yù wud nòt régrét ìt."

Shí sáid, "wèl, ìt's fọr sálé" ànd òmwan sáid "wèl, íf ì rént dís pléis ì'm gọíng tó báy ìt frọm yù." Sò wè schédúld àn àppóíntmént ànd òmwan kém úp híà, ànd òmwan lóòkéd àt dí bílídín, ìt wás a hót més.

Òmwan knéw ì kúd dó sọmtín wít ìt kúz ì tél péopl, àll dèi gót tó dó ìs kọm trái dí fúd. Yù knów wétìn ì mén; jùst kọm trái, ànd íf yù dọ̀n't like ìt héi, yù dọ̀n't hàv tó kọm bák.

Hówévà, ì kán prọmís yù, yù're gọíng tó like ìt. Déà's ọ́n tín ì kán tél yù àbọut mì fúd; évrítín yù sii híà ìs mád frọm scrátch. Yés, kúz fọr mì, dát's hów ì éàt.

Ì dọ̀n't like kánnd fúd ì like héálthy fúd sò ì tọld mísélf íf ì'm gọíng tó hàv a rẹstránt ì wánt péopl tó éàt dè wéi wè éàt bák àt hómè.

Yù knów in Àfríca, nó fíltàs, yù knów, nó shọtkút. Dát's wái ìt tàkès sò lóng tó mák ìt but whén yù're éàting ìt, ìt's nátúral. Ìt ìs héálthy fọr yù ànd dát's wétìn Àfrícan Fúd Pálás ìs òll àbọut.


Español

Entonces, antes de venir a Chicago, tuve un sueño, y en ese sueño tenía cinco ubicaciones para mi restaurante. Comencé a buscar un restaurante y habría ido a Dallas, Texas o St Louis Missouri. Me gustaba mucho un lugar en St Louis en Hazelwood. Miré este edificio, está bien pero nunca pude ver más allá del edificio, así que pensé, ok, seguiré buscando. Entonces, vine a Chicago. ¿Adivina para qué vine a Chicago? ¡Para comprar cabeza de cabra!

En serio... el único lugar que la vende está al otro lado de la calle de la manera que me gusta, porque en la mayoría de los lugares cuando vas a comprar tu cabeza de cabra tienes que comprarla entera y lidiar con ella, pero aquí, la trocean. Conduzco hasta aquí, eso son cinco, bueno, cinco horas y media. Entonces, compré mi carne de cabra, salí, y estaba viniendo porque aparqué justo enfrente y vi este cartel: "SE VENDE", me quedé allí y lo miré y lo miré y pensé, eso es todo, de verdad. Y retrocedo un paso. En realidad, pedí comida que no quiero mencionar de otro lugar que vende comida africana y comí esa comida en el coche y me dije a mí mismo que tenía que estar aquí, de verdad, dije que necesitaba estar aquí, estas personas necesitan saber qué es mi comida, quiero que la gente aquí vea algo diferente. Así que miré este cartel y llamé al propietario y le dije "quiero ver este edificio", él dijo "está a la venta", yo dije "lo sé, pero quiero hablar contigo", [propietario] ¿qué haces? Dije "quiero abrir un restaurante africano", [propietario] ¿ya tienes uno? Dije "no, pero te prometo que de verdad, créeme, te lo prometo, si me das, te haré sentir orgulloso. Dije que estarías impresionado, no te arrepentirías" ella dijo "bueno, está a la venta" y yo dije "bueno, si alquilo este lugar, te lo compraré", así que programamos una cita y vine aquí y miré el edificio, estaba hecho un desastre y supe que podía hacer algo con él, porque le digo a la gente que todo lo que tienen que hacer es venir a probar la comida, ya sabes lo que quiero decir, solo ven a probarla y si no te gusta, oye, no tienes que volver, pero te puedo prometer que te va a gustar y hay una cosa que te puedo decir sobre mi comida, todo lo que ves aquí está hecho desde cero, sí, porque para mí, así es como yo como, no me gusta la comida enlatada, me gusta la comida saludable, así que me dije a mí mismo que si iba a tener un restaurante, quiero que la gente coma de la manera que comemos en África, sin filtros, sin atajos, por eso se tarda tanto en hacerlo, pero cuando lo estás comiendo, es natural, es saludable para ti y eso es lo que es Palacio de la Comida Africana.


Nigerian Pidgin

So, before I go Chicago I get one dream-- and for that dream I get five locations for my restaurant. I con dey find restaurant and I for go Dallas, Texas or Saint Louis Missouri. I really like that place wey dey Saint Louis for Hazelwood. I look the building and I see say e dey ok, but I no really consider other things except how the building dey, so I say ok make I continue. Na so I reach Chicago and guess wetin I con find for Chicago? goat head! I tell you... the thing wey carry me come na full goat head wey I wan buy, but here them dey cut am into pieces. I drive that day reach five-- even 5 and a half hours. Na so I buy the goat meat and as I dey comot go where I park my car, I see sign: "FOR SALE," and e shock me well well so tay I just stop dey look am . Na so I go back go buy food from one place wey them dey sell African food. And as I dey chop the food for my car I tell myself, you suppose dey here and these people suppose know wetin you know. Why I dey cook na to show people something wey dey different from wetin dey done see. I look the sign call the owner and I tell am "I wan check this building," [owner] "Na for sale." I say "I know but I wan talk with you" [owner] "Wetin be your job" I say "I wan open African restaurant" [owner] "You don open restaurant before?" I say "No but I dey promise you believe me if you give me I go make you proud. I go impress you and you no go regret am." [owner] "I don tell you I dey sell am." I say "If you rent am give me I go buy am from you." So na so we later get appointment and I go check the building. I see say e just dey anyhow and I know say I fit change am because I dey tell people say make them just come try the food, you know wetin I dey talk, just come try am and if you no like am make you no come back but I fit promise you say you go like am. Na one thing I fit tell you about my food. I no dey use anything ready-make for my food and na so I like am, no canned food. I dey chop healthy food so I tell myself say if I go open restaurant, I want make people chop the food wey we them dey chop for Africa. No filter, no shortcut. Na why e dey take time but when you dey chop am as e dey natural e dey healthy for your body and na wetin African Food Palace dey all about.



This project was made possible by a grant from the Julian Grace Foundation

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1 Comment


Great story! Encouraging. And I love that you have it translated into other languages in the community. This is a beautiful story.

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