You still haven’t heard of Mama Veek's kitchen? It’s time to change that!
Throughout the city of Zagreb, we’ve been hearing stories about one Nigerian lady who offers African cuisine specialties to everybody, no matter what their budget is. The thing is, you can enjoy exotic meals, but you will not find the prices on the menu because you are the one who is defining how much you want to pay for your meal. That way, you donate as much money as you want to and ensure the meal for people who can’t afford it themselves.
Stunned by the idea, we went to MamaVeek’s kitchen to meet the owner and chef Okoli Kikelomo. With a smile on her face, she let us in her colorful restaurant filled with decorations, instruments, and handcrafts originating from Africa. That’s the moment we found out that this concept exists for two years already, but has relocated to Ilica 73 in April.
During the conversation, Okoli told us her passion for cooking started when she was a young girl because her mother and grandmother had a restaurant in her hometown. She decided to carry on the tradition. Her first plan was to go to Italy, but passing through Croatia, she decided to stay. Not only has she liked it here, but she also found love - her now husband - and stayed in Zagreb.
Since it is very complicated to start a business of this kind right away, Okoli first actively got involved in association work for Afrika u mom srcu. The association promotes African culture throughout art, workshops, and entertainment. Aside from that, Okoli holds culinary workshops and organizes events that include her supporting community of talented and creative people.
After a while, this fearless Nigerian woman accomplished her dream and opened this special place. “This is not a restaurant. Restaurant means business and I don’t want to run a business. I want people to feel like home, offer a good atmosphere and open the door for everyone. This is a charity kitchen - there is no menu nor price list, just goodwill.”
Each day at MamaVeek’s you can find vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions of the daily menu. Also, you can try exotic drinks that you can not find in Croatia. Most ingredients come from the local market in Zagreb, but unique spices that make this place special come from Netherland or straight from her mother in Nigeria.
Except for the special gastronomic offer, the philosophy of this place is praiseworthy: “I was also in a difficult situation once and other people helped me. That’s why I’m glad I can help someone else using my skills”. But the question is how is it possible to cover all the costs if the profit comes only from donations. “The rent is very high, but it’s really nice to see how happy people are when they gather here. Also, there are people who leave more money than the food costs just so they could help others!” That is the point of Okoli’s kitchen - that she can help others by making food, as well as inspire others to take care of each other despite their differences.
We have not only become regular guests of MamaVeek’s kitchen, but also discussed future plans. We agreed that this is the perfect time for Zagreb to get a unique place like this and that Okoli is the perfect example of a positive change in a society! Even though this project is based on a lot of passion and good-will, it’s very important to make a good strategy in order to keep a place like this alive. That is why we got involved and soon you will find out what we have been cooking here at MamaVeek’s kitchen!