Food that satisfies body and soul
Northsiders Mariam Omari and Kotiareenia Taylor (known as Chef K) have turned catering into a movement. Though they have earned a powerful word-of-mouth reputation for custom taco bars and vegan- and meat-friendly East African dishes along with an ever-rotating menu of foods from the African diaspora, the two are more focused on “normalizing” the idea of healthy eating.
“To us, it’s not healthy [food], it just is food,” said Omari. Whereas society looks at it as “Oh my God, you’re a healthy eater,” we’re saying, “No, I’m just eating food.”
Here, the MSR chats with the two caterers about their passion for food and community and the mission behind their business.
MSR: How did you get started?
Mariam Omari: We were just brainstorming. We just came together and, essentially, just through conversation and figuring out that we both had such complementary skills, [realized] that this would be an awesome venture to take on.
MSR: Had either of you worked in catering or any sort of food services before?
MO: We have a combined total of almost 40 years of working for other people and making them rich. I’ve been in the food service industry for about 23 years.
Chef K: I grew up with food. My family’s from New Orleans and Florida, so it’s in my blood. I’ve been cooking since I was a kid, but professionally since I was probably around 18 or 19. I opened up a few local places in Minneapolis and St. Paul and worked for some pretty awesome chefs both in New Orleans and Minneapolis.
MSR: What’s it like working in a partnership?
MO: It’s no different than driving on the freeway. You’ve got to stay in your lane. Chef is the chef and I am the sous chef and the marketer. We keep our roles distinct.
MSR: What kinds of food do you prepare?
MO: Our main focus is the African diaspora — that includes Asian, African, Latin America, East Africa, and West Africa.
CK: One of our most popular entrees is Maharagwe, which is an East African dish made with beans, coconut milk and some other spices.
MO: It’s inspired by my mother and my aunt. Because we focus on whole foods, we can create menus — vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian — and offer meals that will, as much as possible, satisfy vegans as well as meat eaters. So, if you had Maharagwe and rice you’re going to be just as satisfied whether you’re a meat eater or not.
MSR: How did you come up with the name? Revolutionary is a pretty strong term.
MO: The thing about K’s Revolutionary Catering is that [healthy eating] is a revolution. We’ve been conditioned in our community to not understand what authentic food is right now. We’re in an era that boxed food is everything.
CK: We want you to eat things that are essentially going to help you with circulation and just uplift your spirit. We use ingredients that will feed your soul.
MSR: What’s that process been like in building a business?
MO: Chef and I have been building this very organically, meaning that we’re learning the language of business and learning the functionalities of it. Understanding your role within your business, all that stuff is very different. So, we have mentors like NEON [Northside Economic Opportunity Network], and I take classes.
MSR: What were some of the challenges in opening?
MO: When I say organic, we don’t owe anyone. We don’t have loans out. The first year of business, we committed every dollar we got, we just put it right back in the first year. So, the sacrifice was real, it was gangster.
The second year, we made a couple of dollars but nothing regular. This year, we have payroll, we have checks that come every two weeks. We had to take steps, small baby steps.
MSR: What one thing do you wish you knew before launching?
MO: I wish I knew accounting. I wish I understood the IRS. I wish a lot of things, but you know, sometimes experience is the best teacher.
Separating the business from who you are is imperative. K’s Revolutionary Catering is not Mariam nor is it Kotiareenia. We’re employees of our business. We might own it, but we keep our money separate. Otherwise, [we’d] be broke.
MSR: Would you ever open your own brick-and-mortar?
MO: Within the next five years we anticipate having a building and a place where we’re building and teaching people how to produce real food.
MSR: What does success look like to you?
CK: For me, [it’s] being able to run a Black female-owned business — and we’re doing it out here on our own and we’re making a way and we have the support of our community behind us. To me that is success.
MO: Success for me is everything Chef just said, as well as establishing a legacy. Being able to teach my son and let him also teach his children. If I can even have just helped a few people just change a little bit, that’s success to me.
MSR: You also created your own drink?
MO: We created a beverage called the Stay Well Tonic. It’s a super good alternative to sodas, because, again, we normalize healthy eating. It’s made with tumeric, ginger and natural sweeteners and it’s served hot or cold.
MSR: Any plans for distribution?
MO: In the future. We want to be able to have a co-packing manufacturing facility where we’re co-packing for other people and hiring hundreds of people. So, we’d have the education piece and then also have the production piece. Both of those things combined is a beautiful recipe of education for our community.
CK: Another aspiration is to also have an institution where we are learning about entrepreneurship, food, how to grow your own food, agriculture, economics. We need to get back to that as a community.
We work with people’s budget and everything. That’s why we don’t even have prices on our menu because…we try to make sure everybody can get a piece of the wealth. That’s good health.
K’s Revolutionary Catering is offering MSR readers 10 percent off their next group order now through April 30. For more info, visit bit.ly/2CGLhEu.
Stephenetta Harmon is a Black beauty editor, curator, and digital media and communications expert who builds platforms to celebrate the power, impact, and business of Black beauty. She is the former EIC for Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (2018-19) and current host of MSR Forefront, a digital roundtable series. She is the founder of Sadiaa Black Beauty Guide, the premier directory dedicated to Black-owned hair and beauty businesses. Find her at stephenetta.com.