‘Got fed?’: Student serves Denton with traditional African cuisine, culture

‘Got fed?’: Student serves Denton with traditional African cuisine, culture

‘Got fed?’: Student serves Denton with traditional African cuisine, culture
June 13
18:00 2018

Despite Denton’s diverse culture, the city does not have a restaurant that serves traditional African dishes. UNT business major Fatihaat Ismail is aiming to change that.

Ismail has taken it upon herself to make African dishes through her business called Got Fed, “Fed” standing for “Fatihaat’s Exotic Dishes.” Fatihaat is originally from Nigeria and came up with the idea to start her own business after cooking African dishes for her roommates. She said she got inspired to start cooking when she noticed she missed home-cooked meals.

“I’m really picky about my food, so I just decided to make my food myself,” Fatihaat said. “I had like a large group of friends, and we just all hang out every Friday, and I would make food. Someone [then told] me I could just make it for the African students on campus.”

Fatihaat’s sister, Sumayyah Ismail, said they would get their Nigerian food from their cousin before Fatihaat started cooking.

“[Fatihaat has] always liked to cook, but my cousin lived so far away and everyone just [wanted] to have some Nigerian food,” Sumayyah said. “I was the only one who could get some from my cousin, so she just decided, ‘Oh, I can make it.’”

Fatihaat’s Exotic Dishes found its following unexpectedly via social media. When Fatihaat would make dishes, she would upload them to her Snapchat not knowing she would get responses asking about pricing for her dishes. She said she would simply respond to requests by saying she only cooked for friends, but the requests kept coming, and people were suggesting she should sell her dishes.

It wasn’t until fall 2017 that Fatihaat said she felt she could truly start a small business for her cooking. She said she wasn’t necessarily looking for a job at the time but was trying to make money. With her knowledge of business through her studies, Fatihaat pursued her passion and started Fatihaat’s Exotic Dishes. 

Though her pursuit in entrepreneurship through her food business is recent, her beginnings in cooking is not: this passion for cooking came from her childhood. When she was younger, her mom would make her and her siblings cook their own food.

Fatihaat’s mom first showed her the basics to making Nigerian food but has since been doing a lot of cooking on her own. She said she has learned the rest by trial and error. Now, she is used to cooking her own food, and she actually enjoys it.

High demand, close proximity

Because of Denton’s sizable African population and the presence of UNT African culture clubs, such as the African Students Organization and the Nigerian Student Organization, Fatihaat said the demand for African cuisine is high. However, the food is not easily accessible for those who are homesick.

The closest African store is in Arlington, something Fatihaat finds “outrageous.” Denton used to house its own African goods store on the Square but it was recently shut down at the beginning of the year.

Christine Laniyan, a UNT student and Fatihaat’s roommate, said she likes Fatihaat’s food, and the proximity factor is an added bonus. 

“We don’t have any Nigerian restaurants here,” Laniyan said. “It’s really frustrating when you’re craving Nigerian food and you can’t get it from a restaurant around here.”

Laniyan said that no one likes the idea of going to Dallas to eat African food, especially because it’s not an easy drive.

“[Fatihaat said she] wanted to start it for convenience for students and just for everyone to have access to Nigerian food,” Laniyan said. “[Nigerian food is] the best food, honestly.”

Laniyan has tried all of Fatihaat’s dishes and can attest that they are amazing. Laniyan suggests that anyone try it, not just Nigerians.

Something for every one, every budget

Her normal business days are Fridays and Saturdays. On both days she is open from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Nevertheless, she cooks every day, and if anyone wants what she’s cooking, she just tells them they can come pick the dish up at a certain time.

Fatihaat said she likes to keep her prices reasonable, considering most of her customers are fellow university students. The price per dish last semester was $6 per plate.

The dish Fatihaat currently sells the most is Jollof rice. This dish is made up of rice mixed in boiled stew and meat stock. Her personal favorite dish to make is yam porridge, often known to Americans as Asaro.

In addition to sharing food from her native country, Fatihaat said her small business is also allowing her to share a bit of her culture with others. By exposing her food to the Denton community, she said it gives people an opportunity to try food from another culture.

“I don’t think food will [necessarily] draw in a lot people [to African culture and history],” Fatihaat said. “There [are] some people who love making food, so that can be a way for them to get into the African culture.”

When Fatihaat cooks, she sometimes gets prompted by some student organizations to make a dish or to discuss a certain cultural topic. She recently worked together with the Nigerian Student Organization.

“I worked with the Nigerian Student Organization on campus, so it’s like a two-in-one thing,” Fatihaat said. “When [the organization has] cooking lessons, I teach them how to make their own food from [the members’ respective] cultures.”

Fatihaat graduates in December, and she said she doesn’t have an end goal for her business. Nonetheless, she said she loves the fact that people in Denton can locally buy African food when they want. She knows many people on campus who would rather have this option as opposed to American food, herself included.

“[Some people] just want to eat homemade African food,” Fatihaat said.

To order from Fatihaat’s Exotic Dishes, visit Fatihaat’s Twitter page @GOT_FED1.

Featured Image: Denton African Cuisine chef Fatihaat Ismail cooks her own food out of her apartment on Monday. Ismail is specialized in Nigerian cuisine and offers reasonable prices for college students. Emily Olkkola

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Kenya Menjivar

Kenya Menjivar

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1 Comment

  1. Scott
    Scott June 18, 11:40

    Interesting. How do I find this restaurant?

    Reply to this comment

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