Serving Up Senegambian Flavors in the South Sound

Cooking for the community is in Adama Jammeh’s DNA. She learned to cook alongside her sister at nine years old while growing up in Gambia, working in the kitchen to prepare food for as many as 200 people from her community. “[Donating food] is a tradition in my community—when there’s a big event like a wedding or a christening, everyone in the community brings food,” Adama says.

Chicken Yassa dish, photo courtesy @afellajollof on Instagram

When Adama packed up her things and emigrated from Gambia to Seattle in 2017, she brought that tradition with her. She arrived here to join her sister Oumie, and it was through food that she got to know her community—she’d invite people into her home to make them the traditional Senegambian food that reminded her of home. Over time, word spread that her food was excellent. “People started asking me to cater their events,” Adama says. So she did, for years—free of charge. 

With the help of her sister and co-owner Oumie, Adama realized she had a business just waiting to bloom—she already had the customer base, she just needed the resources to launch it.

Recently, Adama has dived into a variety of resources at Business Impact NW. From classes to webinars, she was also paired with a business coach to support her in her journey. Adama has also been involved with South King County’s Food Innovation Network (FIN), that houses their Food Business Incubator Program at Spice Bridge in South King County.

Adama and Oumie preparing for their Spice Bridge opening. Photo @spicebridgefoodhall on Instagram

In 2019, Adama and her sister opened Afella Jollof in the Spice Bridge Food Hall, in Tukwila, Washington.

The name “Afella Jollof” comes from the Serer language of the Senegambian region of Africa: afella means “tastes good,” and jollof is a local name for the community. The restaurant focuses on creating authentic Senegambian cuisine using only the freshest, most high-quality ingredients. 

Adama says her business has marketed itself organically, mostly through word-of-mouth. She hasn’t had to invest a lot in marketing—but it’s one of her goals for the coming year. “I want to start selling our sauces as packaged goods,” she says. A goal she has begun to lean into by using the resources available through the Food Business Resource Center at Business Impact NW.

After only a short time in business, Adama says she’s watched countless people taste the flavors of her home for the very first time—and they almost always fall in love instantly. “My biggest goal is to teach more people where Gambia is on the map,” she states.

We hope to see more of Adama and Oumie of Afella Jollof in the future, hopefully in shelves across the region soon! Support Afella Jollof by visiting their website.

Find resources for your food business at our Food Business Resource Center

Discover more stories about Food Businesses and Food Entrepreneurs here.

Photos Courtesy of Denise Miller, globaltolocal.org
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