The culinary world has seen a steady rise over the years in female professionals taking the lead to further their gastronomic passions. Here are two businesses that are making great strides, despite completely different backgrounds and experiences.
Trojan Grill Barbecue
A family-owned and operated business, the duo behind Trojan Grill Barbecue (TGB) bring their family history and recipes into play with their delicious fare. Owned by chef Nikki McFadden and pitmaster Portia Mitchell, low and slow barbecue is the name of the game here.
With a focus on smoke, flavor and spice, this catering business offers many holiday specials including traditional favorites from an assortment of salads, sides and meat options with their best seller being the brisket. Another crowd favorite is the macaroni and cheese.
In business for three years now, they are proud of the fusion created from their different yet similar cultures – McFadden’s family is from Belize while Mitchell hails from New Orleans, Louisiana. Naturally, a New Orleans-style mirepoix finds its place here made with onions, bell peppers and garlic, creating a base for some of the sauces.
McFadden says, “Our ethnicities come from well-seasoned food, from marinating to seasoning to sauces. We don’t skimp on flavor.” It is exactly that flavor which has garnered slow and steady rewards over the years.
TGB won LA Travel Magazine’s Taste the World event this year, competing against 15 other businesses. Another highlight was last year’s surprise order for delivery which turned out to be Canadian rapper Drake and his entourage at the Summer Sixteen Tour.
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Commendable considering both co-founders had no prior background in the culinary world. The formally trained chef on the team, McFadden, is only a recent graduate of Los Angeles Trade Tech College with a culinary associate’s degree and an associate's degree in restaurant management. Mitchell is a former all-star student athlete and Division 1 women’s basketball player who grew up watching and learning traditional southern cooking, eventually developing her own style. Both Mitchell and McFadden along with their support system of family members all work full-time jobs while pursuing this culinary dream.
Meals with Genet
Nestled in Little Ethiopia on Fairfax Avenue is Meals by Genet, owned and operated by Genet Agonafer. Located in the exact same spot for the last 17 years and offering pretty much the same menu, her customers drive down from Santa Monica and Malibu for a piece of this gastronomy action.
Among the top specialties here is the Doro Wot (chicken stew) – the most traditional Ethiopian dish and one she is known for. Other specialties include lamb, sautéed beef and the vegetarian platter.
All dishes are prepared per traditional methods – in fact, the chicken dish takes more than two days to prep. “I never take shortcuts but I love doing what I do so that helps,” Agonafer says. Though she does have help with prep and serving, Agonafer is the one cooking up the proverbial storm in the kitchen.
Unlike other restaurants, she does not seasonally revamp the menu. “You cannot get creative with traditional foods,” she says. “But I have tried something with tofu, which is not known to Ethiopian cuisine.”
Vegans and vegetarians can rejoice. Agonafer points out that all Ethiopian dishes are traditionally vegan and gluten-free and she herself is also vegan so the options are available to diners.
She admits that despite how long she has had her restaurant, many diners are still unfamiliar with Ethiopian food and there is an educational component involved. Nonetheless, foodies in-the-know flock to her location for a taste of this Eastern African cuisine. If you plan on dining here, make reservations for your party. The space is cozy and gets filled quickly.
The restaurant is closed three days a week and open Thursday through Sunday, for dinner only. “I have a loyal clientele and I am busy every night that I am open. I am grateful.”
Meals by Genet is located at 1053 S. Fairfax Ave in Los Angeles. Learn more about this neighborhood gem at www.mealsbygenetla.com.