As a little girl growing up in Tanzania, Africa, Grace Mbowe would cook for imaginary diners. As she got older, she started to cook professionally as a means to support her family while doing what she loves. After moving to America, she stayed on the same path.
“Cooking is my passion,” Mbowe says.
In 2019, Mbowe started Kilimanjaro Flavour, a beloved and successful food truck that sells East African food throughout Pittsburgh.
The blue-and green-truck, adorned with pictures of animals like lions and giraffes, has visited Bellevue, Downtown, Ross Township, and many more local neighborhoods. A message pasted around the truck says, “If You Can’t Make It To Kilimanjaro, Climb It Here!”
Food sold in the truck includes entrees such as Wakanda Braised Beef, Coconut Shrimp, and Chicken on a Stick, as well as desserts like Sweet Plantains and Coconut Puf Pufs. In order to successfully sell authentic African food, Mbowe says she had to acclimate to American tastes, such as a penchant for condiments that didn’t exist back home. One solution she found was embracing coconut flavoring.
“As I grew up with my grandparents, we had a coconut plantation in our house,” she says. “Surrounding the homes, there were a lot of coconuts, and my grandmother used to cook everything using coconuts, even if it’s a chicken stew, beef stew.”
Running the truck proves to be difficult work. It’s not uncommon for Mbowe to wake up at 4 a.m., and she often works alone.
“This is something that I love. I pray so that I won’t give up and keep on going because I’ve already given people something good,” Mbowe says. “If I quit, I will be disappointing so many people who have been behind my business.”
Mbowe prides herself on running a successful business that provides a unique style of food.
“People have been honest and they appreciate the work that I put into this type of work,” Mbowe says, adding, “I’m so proud of coming up with the creativity of twisting our actual food back home and making sure everyone here enjoys.”
Kilimanjaro Flavour. facebook.com/Kilimanjo.kitchen