Taste of Congo – owner Caroline Musitu – credit Denise Miller for Global to Local (photos by Denise Miller)
Written by Denise Miller
Immigrant and refugee chefs are cooking up a world of cuisines at Spice Bridge, the new food hall and commercial kitchen in Tukwila. Operated by the nonprofit organization Global to Local, Spice Bridge is the cornerstone of their Food Innovation Network (FIN) program, which helps aspiring entrepreneurs launch and build food businesses.
Eight food vendors rotate through four stalls in the sunlit food hall, offering a new dining experience every day. With indoor dining currently restricted, the initial group of eight women-owned businesses are currently offering takeaway meals and making use of outdoor seating in the new Tukwila Village development. Entrees ranging from Congolese to Afghan are priced from $8 to $16, served every day but Monday.
This fall, we’re introducing you to the five Spice Bridge businesses that are owned by African and Muslim chefs. We previously featured Moyo Kitchen and Afella Jollof Catering. Today we continue the series with Taste of Congo owner Caroline Musitu.
Originally from the Congolese city of Kinshasa, Caroline grew up helping her mother cater weddings, parties, and church meetups. Several years ago, Caroline fled armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and started a new life in South King County. Realizing there were no Congolese food businesses in our region, she launched Taste of Congo to share her home country’s unique flavors with her new community.
Caroline joined FIN’s Food Business Incubator in 2018, and has grown her business at pop-ups, catering events, and farmers markets. I recently spoke with Caroline about her Spice Bridge menu, what she’s learned as a business owner, and her dreams for Taste of Congo.
Can you please describe a few of the dishes that you offer at Spice Bridge?
Ntaba, grilled goat, is popular to eat after work in Congo. I serve it on brown paper like they do in Congo. We eat it with kwanga [boiled fermented cassava], and we put toothpicks in the kwanga to make it easier to share.
We can also talk about beignet—they’re popular, too! Mikate is the Congolese word for them. They’re deep-fried dough. In Congo in the morning there are mikate vendors on the corners of the streets. They’re out there early, at 6 or 7, so that when people get up for work they can come by to get breakfast. But you can eat beignet anytime—in the morning, afternoon, and evening. We like to eat them with peanut butter—it’s so good!
And of course there’s chicken stew, poulet a la moamba. It’s a popular dinner cooked with onion, garlic, and tomato.
You joined FIN’s Food Business Incubator in 2018. What have been some of the highlights of the last two years?
I didn’t know how to start the business, but FIN helped me and made it easy for me to start. I’ve done farmers markets, pop-ups, and some catering jobs. The best experience has been setting up at farmers markets. I’ve met a lot of customers, including some that had lived in my country, and they got so excited to see Congolese food.
What have you learned, and how has your business changed?
I learned how to manage a website and do things online that I didn’t know before. When COVID happened, FIN helped me set up an ordering website so people could order my food for pickup. I keep learning, and I know I will learn more as my business grows at Spice Bridge.
What does being at Spice Bridge mean for you and your business?
It’s a nice building, very beautiful! It means so much to my business. More customers will know me, my business will grow, I’ll have more income, and I will be more independent.
What is your dream for Taste of Congo?
My dream is to see Taste of Congo become its own restaurant, and also offer packaged foods, like my chili sauce. I want to ship my foods all over the United States. I want for everybody to try them!
Visit Taste of Congo at Spice Bridge
Spice Bridge is located at 14200 Tukwila International Blvd. Suite 141, Tukwila, WA 98168. Free parking is available between Spice Bridge and the Tukwila Library.
Taste of Congo is open at Spice Bridge on Tuesday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Learn more and order online: https://tasteofcongo.square.site/
Spice Bridge has takeout and outdoor dining from four vendors available from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.