RICHMOND, Va. -- When Chef Ida Mamusu fled Liberia after a coup d'état in 1980, she landed in New York City alone and without a plan. A stranger approached Mamusu, crying at the airport, and took her back to her apartment to help get her on her feet.
After connecting with family in the states, Mamusu made her way to Richmond where she opened businesses to earn money to bring her family over from Africa.
It was family, she said, specifically her grandmother, who set her on the path to opening her restaurant Chef Mamusu's Africanne on Main.
"When I turned 10 years old, she put an apron on me and gave me a cooking spoon," Mamusu said. "That day was the day that I knew that I was going to be a cook, just the apron and spoon was in my hand, it transformed my whole idea of what I wanted to do in my life."
It wasn't long before her father made Mamusu the chef of the house. She was just 13 years old.
"I was feeding 11 people, doing the menus, the budget, everything," she said. "I knew that this was it, there wasn't anything else that I ever wanted to do in my life. And I say this to everyone, if I die and had to come back in any form, I will be doing the same thing. Because this is all I know. And it is all I love to do."
After several moves since its 1995 opening, Chef Mamusu's recently re-opened in a larger space at 1102 West Main Street near VCU.
There she hopes to connect with more international students seeking a taste of home and Richmonders looking for healthy meal options.
"I want to be the chef that will heal you with food by natural herbs and spices," she said. "[If you ask for advice] I will start you off with vegetables and I've done that with customers. Looking at their tray, I would say to them, 'I don't see any vegetables on your tray.' They will say, 'I got a little greens right here.' Sometimes I will send them back to the buffet and say take some spinach, it is good for you."
Africanne On Main offers mainly West African cuisine served buffet style at $7.99 per pound.
The restaurant is currently open Tuesday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
This episode of Eat It, Virginia is sponsored by Farmer Focus. Learn more about Farmer focus here.
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