Sammed Okyne, a Liberian native who immigrated to the United States in 1997, knew at a very young age that his purpose was to leave an impact. During his time as a student at Penn State Brandywine, Okyne launched a series of neighborhood events that brought the county together to bond over food, music and fun. After graduating in 2013, Okyne seized the opportunity to reintroduce the residents of Southwest Philadelphia to African cuisine and culture. With funding coming solely from his savings, Okyne opened Kings and Queens, a Pan-African takeout restaurant.
Word of mouth, celebrity appearances, and consistent messaging have led to national recognition. In 2018, Okyne rebranded the name from Kings and Queens to Kings and Queens Liberian Cuisine to further highlight the dishes of his homeland.
Rolling out recently spoke with Okyne about opening a restaurant at such a young age, growing the business and advice for aspiring restaurateurs.
What do you do to keep your menu new and exciting?
When it comes to Liberian and West African dishes, there is such a wide variety of offerings, which leaves an abundance of opportunity to recreate new dishes to spice up our menu. Adding new items is a great way to diversify our menu without getting rid of what’s working.
How open are other people of cultures to trying West African cuisine?
There has been this explosion of people wanting to be introduced to West African culture, and as a result, people have been more open to trying West African cuisines.
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