Anything that Ogban “Dazzle” Okpo says he’s going to do, he does.
When the serial entrepreneur told his wife, April, that he wanted to open a vegan food truck in New Orleans, she was skeptical at first. A native New Orleanian, April was not sure how a vegan food truck would fit into New Orleans’ culinary scene.
Five years later, Tanjariné Kitchen is a thriving business on its way to opening its first brick and mortar location on Washington Avenue. The Mandela Burger, a local favorite, blends herbs and spices imported from Africa to bring a taste of Okpo’s culinary roots to his new home of New Orleans.
“It culminates the journey of my people,” Dazzle says. “The best of the burger is part of my soul.”
Tanjariné Kitchen’s food truck launched in 2018 with the goal of producing healthy, vegan food that incorporates the traditional medicinal herbs of Dazzle’s native Calabar, Nigeria. The food truck’s flavorful menu has a loyal following, with cars regularly pulling over at the site of the bright red truck.
“Tanjariné is going to become the Starbucks of vegans,” Dazzle says, with the hope of franchising the business in the future.
The restaurant has already proven itself by surviving a global pandemic. The truck’s mobility and its ability to cater to vegan consumers gave it some security, and its eventual partnership with Chefs Brigade boosted their stability further. The Okpo’s were able to feed their community with healthy, delicious meals during a time of uncertainty and struggle for many. Tanjariné Kitchen was a perfect fit for the program because community members with dietary restrictions, like lactose intolerance or shrimp allergies, could enjoy their food.
“It really helped us to be able to get things we needed to move forward, like a support kitchen and eventually a brick and mortar restaurant,” Dazzle says.
Dazzle has been cooking for over 40 years. Besides the years he’s put into his craft, his other defining factor is the region where he learned to cook - according to Dazzle, Calabar has “the best food in Nigeria.”
“I started cooking seriously when I was 8, but my mother taught me the ways of cooking basically from the cradle,” Dazzle says.
Dazzle moved to the U.S. in March 2017, and married his wife April four weeks later. Today, they are a powerful team with both Okpo’s bringing strong business acumen to their growing venture. Together, they’re eager to expand their vision once they get settled into their new space, with room for a bigger menu and even more creativity from Dazzle.
“I’ve seen something come from nothing way too many times,” April says. “Everything he said he was going to do, he did it.”
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