Every place in the world has a “special dish.” And now, two black businesswomen in Bismarck are exposing North Dakotan taste buds to cuisines from across the world.
“It feels great — it really feels good to know that I can bring that diversity to the business field,” said Mellisa Phillips-adi, owner of Jamrock.
Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island with a population of about 2.9 million people. The food is known for its unique jerk seasoning.
Phillips-adi says Jamaican food is different from anything in North Dakota.
“Our jerk seasoning consists of various things such as pimento, scotch bonnet pepper, scallion, thyme,” she said.
Phillips-adi was born and raised in Jamaica and always wanted to be a restaurant owner. When she moved to North Dakota, she started to make her dreams a reality.
“What better place is there to do it than in North Dakota? There are a lot of great opportunities here, so I started working on that progress last summer and opened Jamrock on October 1st,” she said.
What started as a pop-up shop, Jamrock is now a restaurant with a full bar in downtown Mandan.
“One of the questions I’ve gotten a lot is well is the food spicy? So Jamaican curry is not spicy, it’s a very mild flavor of course growing up in Jamaica we would at scotch bonnet peppers to make it spicier,” said Phillips-adi.
Another international cuisine you can find in Bismarck is African.
Jasmine Tosseth-Smith, owner of African Nomad, said food is a huge part of the culture.
“In terms of what resources you had, what you were able to get wherever you lived. So a lot of flavors and food are tied into our culture, our story — how you grew up, what our history is, what part of the continent we migrated from,” said Tosseth-Smith.
Originally from Zimbabwe, a country in southern Africa, Tosseth-Smith moved to North Dakota in 2006.
She began cooking dinner when she was about 8 years old.
“Zimbabwe was colonized by the British, so because of that our food is less hot, so we don’t use as much pepper. We use a lot of spices but we don’t use as much heat,” said Tosseth-Smith.
Now, she has a popular African cuisine catering business in Bismarck. When she got here, she was worried that people would be hesitant to support her business.
“There was all of three Black people, so I don’t know if it’ll be a concept that was understood or the world was necessarily ready for,” she said.
Since the business started in August 2021, Tosseth-Smith has found herself featured on the cover of two local magazines.
“There’s so much more diversity, with people traveling more, there are more people that are willing to try it –or that have traveled out the U.S. and they’re happy to have me here,” said Tosseth-Smith.
Although two different cultures, these women have one thing in common — they’re Black business owners in North Dakota.
“I think for a long time it’s been their story, our story, and not necessarily understanding that there’s an intersection between those stories and that our stories co-exist,” said Tosseth-Smith.
Two women, two businesses, one goal.
One of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month is to support these local Black businesses by grabbing a bite to eat.