By Thuothuo Anthony -Boston | MA
Ricky’s story is one that transcends the narrative of an ordinary Kenyan living in the diaspora. It is an inspirational milieu of hope, success, and motivation. Ricky, popularly known as Foodsbyricky, did not become an exemplary chef overnight. He discovered himself in his childhood and embarked on a journey that would later build him as one of the most sought chefs in the Kenyan community in the USA and beyond.
When Jamhuri-news.com visited Ricky at his Vstar Lounge and Restaurant in Lowell, Massachusetts, the smell of ugali and grilled goat started puffing through our vehicle’s AC vents, as we approached the location in downtown Lowell. As usual, being a Friday afternoon, we found the parking lot full of cars that one would easily identify with; as some had custom plates bearing Kenyan names such as Bahati and Kiambu, while several others had Kenyan flags inside.
As we looked for parking, another car pulled in. It was a family of four transiting from New Jersey, and they had found the place through google after searching for ‘Kenyan Restaurants in Lowell’.
Ricky, a former quality control associate at a rail-car assembling company in Georgia, ventured into culinary without having to go to school for it. He naturally aced the making of his unbeatable custom recipes.
The taste and aroma of his food got him his first gig in 2012, at a West African restaurant in Atlanta where he had his first kitchen. ”This is where West Africans would flood for Mukimo Stew as if it were one of their delicacies” he said.
With dreams and aspirations in top gear, Ricky opened his first Kenyan cuisine when he moved to Massachusetts in 2014. He has relaunched it anew, attracting not only the high Kenyan populace in the Greater Boston area, but also the Spanish, and the whole of the African community around Boston, who either come to eat or for short round-robins at the restaurant.
His recipes are custom, and he tries them once before putting them on the menu; that’s how accurate he is.
” There’s no secret about my recipes, it’s all about the taste” he said
Ricky’s restaurant poses a major threat to other restaurants in downtown Lowell, with his price for a plate averaging between $12 and $13, a price lower than average in restaurants around Boston area. In addition to that, Ricky gets his food from sources that have around 70% organic food distribution. He is known for his lamb fry and tilapia, but he has a new best seller which is the grilled goat (nyama choma). He also serve events such as weddings, small parties and ceremonies.
After hours, Ricky’s restaurant is turned into a night club. Event promoters such as Bahati Entertainment bring Kenyan DJs to entertain revelers who are mostly Kenyans. On the night that we were filming the feature for this story, it was DJ Kalonje on the deck; one of the finest and highest paid DJs in Kenya, earning an average of $2,000 (Sh200, 000) for out of country gigs with all other expenses paid – according to Musik.
With a lot of humility, Ricky applauded his customers for the support they have accorded him all over the US and emphasized on the need to support other entrepreneurs aiming to strengthen the communities through business ventures.
Health and weight loss
Ricky never cared about diet until his health sent him some alarming signs of distress. He was diagnosed with diabetes and sleep apnea when he was 320lbs in 2016. Unlike many, he never allowed anger, trauma or even his weight to determine his fate for the future. Instead, Ricky instantly changed his diet, refraining from everything that his doctor condemned.
Other than eating right and working out, Ricky decided to go for sleeve surgery; a procedure that induces weight loss in part by restricting the amount of food that one can eat, without bypassing the intestines and therefore absorbed. While this acted as a booster to his weight loss, he says most of his weight was shed through the change of diet and commitment.
”Patience, commitment and responsibilities that I had to adhere to are what that helped me get to where I am today” Ricky said
Referencing his doctors’ advice, Ricky recommends eating small portions of meals, staying active and drinking plenty of water.
”I had type two diabetes, sleep apnea, and my BP was off the roof… but now everything has settled down, my diabetes is gone…everything else is gone, I’m happy and I feel really good” Said the jovial chef.
”In life, everything is about portion; you can go to the gym all day, then come home to eat a kilo of Choma (grilled meat). That’s not how it works, portions! portions! portions! ” he added.
While Ricky benefited a huge deal from the sleeve surgery, he says it should only be considered as the last resort where there’s a medical urgency to lose weight.
Today, Ricky weighs 225lbs down from 320lbs a year ago, something that he says fills his heart with energy and joy knowing where he has come from.
”It’s up to you guys, just live healthy, it’s not that difficult” He winds up his interview with www.jamhuri-news.com.
The restaurant address is 602 Merrimack Street, Lowell MA
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