RACHEL BELLE

Tukwila’s Spice Bridge serves global cuisine cooked by immigrant, refugee women entrepreneurs

Sep 24, 2020, 5:23 PM | Updated: 5:24 pm
Spice Bridge...
Caroline Musitu cooks traditional Congolese food at Taste of Congo at the new Spice Bridge food hall. (Photo courtesy of Denise Miller, Global to Local)
(Photo courtesy of Denise Miller, Global to Local)

Federal Way’s Monica Di Bartolomeo, an immigrant from Argentina, has a dream: to open a bakery featuring handmade empanadas, pastries, and sweets from her home country. But the process is daunting.

“The price of the kitchen is very expensive and too risky,” Di Bartolomeo said. “Especially when you’re starting.”

So Di Bartolomeo, along with a collective of immigrant and refugee women of color, found a home in the incubator program at King County’s Food Innovation Network.

“The intent of the incubator program is to help folks that have not had access to commercial kitchens and have challenges navigating the permitting system,” said Kara Martin, program director. “The incubator program provides services around business development, as well as a commercial kitchen space. Even with English as my first language, I can tell you navigating permitting systems can be really confusing.”

For several years, the incubator program has helped immigrant and refugee women launch catering businesses, create packaged food products, and sell their food at farmers’ markets. But until now, they didn’t have a permanent, physical space.

This month, they opened Spice Bridge, a food court and commercial kitchen in a brand new building.

“Spice Bridge is a global food hall in Tukwila,” Martin said. “We’re a non-profit running a food business incubator, so when you come in, you’re supporting businesses that are just getting launched and have incredible culinary talent.”

Spice Bridge features four restaurant kiosks, and eight vendors from the incubator program will rotate through. Some of the cuisine being served is not represented anywhere else in the region, like Caroline Musitu’s Taste of Congo.

“I’m making the food that’s most popular in my country, Congo,” Musitu said.

Musitu fled Congo in 2009 with her husband and two children.

“There was a war, there’s no peace,” she said. “That’s why we came here.”

Her first job in Seattle was in the Oberto warehouse in Kent, but thanks to the incubator program and Spice Bridge, you can now taste her own cooking.

“It’s like a big, big step with my dream,” Musitu said. “I’ve had this dream since I was little. When I was helping my mom [cook for weddings and the community], I said I want to open my own restaurant. When I came here, I didn’t know how to start.”

Oumie Sallah owns Aleffa Jollof Catering Services with her sister, Adama Jammeh. They cook Gambian and Senegalese foods like jollof rice and chicken yassa, grilled chicken with an onion sauce.

“I am from Gambia, West Africa,” Sallah said. “I came to the United States to better my future and change my life because I was going through a lot there.”

She said she fled Gambia to leave a bad marriage.

“It’s not easy sometimes with our husbands and the families,” Sallah said. “That’s why I am here.”

Sallah says she is forever grateful for the Food Innovation Network’s help navigating the complicated system and helping her get a business off the ground.

“These people are great! If we have a word more than ‘thank you,’ we will give it to them,” Sallah said, smiling. “They make everything possible for us. We were crawling and now we are walking with our feet. We are so proud of them. Everything is convenient for us here. Everything is from them, so we have a very, very big thank you for them.”

At Spice Bridge, eight vendors means food from more than eight different countries, including Cambodia, Afghanistan, and a mash up from Tanzania, Somalia, and Kenya.

Di Bartolomeo, who runs Seatango with her husband, says it’s great to have the help and support of so many women entrepreneurs.

“The thing that I can say is that if you have a dream, just follow it,” Di Bartolomeo said. “If you like to cook just keep doing it. We’ve spent more than 10 years trying to do this and the day came and the dream came true.”

Website created in quarantine connects you with local farms that deliver fresh food

Most of these women will spend two years with the incubator, and most dream of moving on to open their own restaurant or sell a product.

Click here for more information on Spice Bridge, including hours and location.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram!

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Radio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

Nadiya Hussain...
Rachel Belle

New ‘Your Last Meal’: British Bake Off winner, Spice Waala brings Indian street food to Seattle

As a child, Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain, felt frustrated that her dad served watered down, westernized Indian food at his restaurants.
6 days ago
Toxic positivity...
Rachel Belle

Seattle psychotherapist on how to cope with ‘season of toxic positivity’

Telling your loved ones to look on the bright side when they're feeling down is toxic positivity, and no one likes to hear it. Not even you.
13 days ago
birthday cake...
Rachel Belle

‘Your Last Meal’ podcast explores history of why we eat cake and light candles for birthdays

We all eat birthday cake, but have you ever wondered why? Award-winning chef Christina Tosi dives in on the latest episode of "Your Last Meal."
19 days ago
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is not holding a fluffernutter in this photo, but he is holdi...
MyNorthwest Staff

Dave Ross, Rachel Belle on how ‘fluffernutter’ made it into the dictionary

Fluffernutter is now in the dictionary. KIRO Radio's Dave Ross and Rachel Belle discuss that and the other new words (and phrases) that made the cut.
20 days ago
Caspar Babypants...
Rachel Belle

Seattle rocker Chris Ballew is retiring Caspar Babypants, moving on from kids’ music

After 19 albums and 13 years as Caspar Babypants, Seattle's Chris Ballew is moving on to yet another a new musical project.
21 days ago
Seattle, anxiety...
MyNorthwest Staff

KIRO Radio hosts attempt to solve Seattle’s anxiety problem

A new study out of the U.S. Census Bureau has found that Seattle is ranked as the most anxious metro area in the country. KIRO Radio weighs in.
23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Tukwila’s Spice Bridge serves global cuisine cooked by immigrant, refugee women entrepreneurs