Home » Batulo’s Kitchen Selling Somali Meat and Veggie Pies Opens in Concord Next Week
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Batulo’s Kitchen Selling Somali Meat and Veggie Pies Opens in Concord Next Week

In an effort to create more diversity in the Concord business community, two nonprofits have joined forces to work directly with New American entrepreneurs.

Batulo Mahamed, known around Concord for serving delicious hand-held meat and veggie pies, will be their first success story.

After eight years trying to start her own food service company, Mahamed is celebrating the grand opening of her business, Batulo’s Kitchen, in Concord on Wednesday with a brick and mortar location at the Bank of New Hampshire Stage. She will be the featured Culinary Artist in Residence for a year selling Somali-inspired cuisine, including the coveted Sambusa, a triangular shaped stuffed pie, for lunch pick up, delivery, catering, and pre-orders. At the end of her residency, she hopes to purchase a food truck.

After Mahamed immigrated to the United States from Somalia, she wanted to offer a thank-you for all the support she received in her new community. She deep fried meat-stuffed pastries for her friends, which quickly became the most sought after bites at Concord’s annual multicultural festival held each summer.

“Many people were interested in my food at the multicultural festival and were asking me how they could buy it and wanted to know if I was opening a restaurant,” Mahamed said.

With the help of festival organizer Jessica Livingston and community organizer Lidia Yen, a plan began to develop.

Yen, working through the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center, teamed with the Capitol Center for the Arts, which wanted to do more to support the community’s growing diversity.

“When we meet the client, we want to hear from them, where they are at in their business process and what’s challenging to them and then we start a conversation trying to figure out how to solve that problem and provide them with resources,” said Andrea O’Brien, business advisor for the state’s Small Business Development Center.

For many New American entrepreneurs like Mahamed, learning how to start a business and securing financing can become a hurdle.

Livingston took over as director of the city’s multicultural festival in 2013 and saw the need to help Mahamed and other refugees establish and grow their business ideas.

“At that time, we had food vendors but it was done very small and not very professionally run because it was just a grassroots community thing,” Livingston said. “They were just community members that wanted to share their food and their culture and would use church kitchens throughout the city that have commercial kitchens.”

Opening a business seemed like a logical step but the process proved difficult, Livingston said.

“I wanted to help them become economically independent and our community wanted more access to ethnic foods; we had very little back then,” she said. “The community wants to support the New American food vendors and most of the vendors would love to be making money from this and some are serious about starting a business.”

While attending an art conference in Massachusetts, Livingston was inspired by an initiative to create a community kitchen to expose ethnic food and culture with their communities.

The idea, she said, was to remove the high overhead and provide New Americans with the opportunity to start their business without investing too much capital. In March, she began working with the Capitol Center for the Arts, which had two commercial kitchens available for use, to establish the Culinary Arts in Residence Program.

Batulo’s Kitchen was offered the first slot to serve her sought-after meat pies, a golden-brown fried triangle filled with meat, vegetables and spices. The Somali dish is considered a delicacy and frequently served during big events, like weddings.

Batulo’s Kitchen will be limited to in-store pick up and online ordering through its website. The pies will also be available for patrons during shows at the Bank of NH venue.

“This fits the mission of the Capitol Center for the Arts component and fulfills the need of helping New American food entrepreneurs fulfill their business,” Livingston said. “This gives her the opportunity to build her business and gives us something different to offer patrons.”

Mahamed will be charged a percentage of her proceeds each month as part of her rent agreement, Livingston said. 

By the end of her lease next year, Mahamed hopes to have saved enough money to purchase a food truck that she’ll run year round in downtown Concord and at different annual festivals, she said.

“I feel amazing to be chosen as the first chef,” Mahamed said. “I am so excited.”

It’s been a long process that’s finally coming to fruition.

“I have been trying to make this happen for seven to eight years and it took a community to help make it happen,” Livingston said. “Batulo is one of the hardest working people that I know and this has been her dream for so many years and she’s making it happen while working full time, raising a family and running a farm. She does everything.”

Source : Concord Monitor