In the heart of Seattle, a small restaurant has captured the taste buds and hearts of Kenyan expatriates and food enthusiasts alike.
Lims Nyama Choma, owned and operated by John Kamau Karanja, has become a thriving hub for Kenyan cuisine in the United States.
His path to success was far from easy. Here is his story as told by WoK.
Hailing from Limuru, Kenya, he faced numerous hurdles before establishing his restaurant in the US.
Working as a plumber in South Sudan and selling curios in South Africa and Zambia, Karanja strived to make ends meet.
However, fortune smiled upon him when he won the green card lottery in 2013, allowing him to bring his expertise to Seattle and pursue his dreams as an entrepreneur.
The Birth of Lims Nyama Choma
Karanja’s culinary talents and passion for Kenyan cuisine quickly gained recognition when he cooked nyama choma (grilled meat) at a friend’s party, receiving rave reviews from the guests.
“One time at a friend’s party, I cooked for them nyama choma and they were very pleased. Days later, I kept receiving calls from various people asking me to cook for them nyama choma at a fee,” he recalled.
Inspired by their positive feedback, Karanja decided to venture into the world of food business.
He started receiving requests to cook nyama choma for various events, which marked the inception of his journey as a restaurateur.
With the unwavering support of his family, Karanja transformed Lims Nyama Choma into a true family business.
His wife, Caroline Kamau, took on the role of the main chef, ensuring the authenticity of the flavors.
Meanwhile, his sons, Simon Kamau and Steve Kamau, contributed their skills as a waiter and accountant, respectively.
Together, they created a memorable dining experience, incorporating their combined expertise to deliver a taste of home to their customers.
Overcoming Challenges and Creating a Niche
Establishing a business in America presented its own set of obstacles for Karanja.
He had to navigate the complexities of compliance with licenses and standards, but his determination remained unshaken.
Karanja’s commitment to providing an authentic Kenyan experience paid off, attracting customers from diverse backgrounds, including Kenyan expatriates, South Africans, and even non-Africans.
Lims Nyama Choma quickly became a popular destination, offering a slice of Kenya and a place of comfort for those far away from home.
Operating from Tuesdays to Sundays, Lims Nyama Choma has become more than just a restaurant.
It serves as a gathering place for the Kenyan community in Seattle, fostering a sense of community and familiarity.
The mouth-watering flavors of Kenyan cuisine, combined with the warm hospitality and authentic atmosphere, have made it a go-to spot for Kenyan food enthusiasts seeking a taste of their homeland and a place to connect with fellow compatriots.
“Mostly hustlers like me fit here very well as opposed to the wealthy because this is where I got my first Ksh1 million here so I can say it’s a great opportunity for those who are determined” Said Kamau.