This past Sunday, Julion’s Kitchen spiced up the Marketplace with its savory bites.
Julion’s Kitchen, the winner of the spring 2017 Student Culinary Council’s (SCC) entrepreneurship challenge, took over Chick-N-Bap’s space in the Marketplace on Feb. 4 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and sold out in an hour and a half. The restaurant’s motto is “Fresh, flavorful and affordable” and a major goal of the enterprise is to provide some Binghamton University students with a taste of home, ensuring that a meal from Julion’s Kitchen is like “receiving flavor straight from the Motherland and the Caribbean.”
The menu consisted of Caribbean and Nigerian food, inspired by family recipes. Founders Amenze Uzamere, a second-year graduate student in chemistry, and Daniel Adlam, an undeclared sophomore, met in the Binghamton University gospel choir during a year ago and joked they would take part in the SCC challenge. The joke turned into a reality — a successful one at that.
“We have been working really hard for a year for this and there has been a lot of steps we have had to take to get here,” Uzamere said.
The SCC challenge consisted of three different rounds, narrowing down the competition after each one. There were initially 12 teams, a field that was whittled down to six teams to compete in an exhibition in which Julion’s Kitchen placed third. The first round involved a taste test and a look at the entries’ cost breakdown for its ingredients, and the second round pitted teams against each other as judges considered how teams’ ideas fit into the existing dining options on campus.
Their success in the second round allowed them to compete against the top two teams in a final competition. After their first-place win, they worked with Chick-N-Bap, whose team mentored Uzamere and Adlam, to host a one-day pop-up shop.
“[Judges from BU Dining Services] selected which team they thought shared a passion for their project along with a well developed business plan,” Alex Van Roijen, president of the SCC and a senior double-majoring in math and computer science, wrote in an email. “That team was ultimately Julion’s Kitchen. Daniel and Amenze are very kind people who do care a lot about their product.”
Uzamere and Adlam came up with the name for the restaurant by combining the names of their mothers, Julie and Sharon. They both grew up cooking with their mothers and Uzamere’s mother is also a caterer.
During the pop-up on Sunday, the menu included jollof rice, beef stew, rice and peas, jerk barbecue chicken, sauteed vegetables and steamed cabbage.
The rice and peas with the sauteed vegetables had a fiery zest to it. The traditional rice and peas dish had a similar kick to it, but it was not as overpowering as the spice in the vegetables. People flocked to the Chick-N-Bap booth wanting to see what the buzz was about, and many still in line had to be turned away when the restaurant ran out. Several customers returned for seconds and thirds, with one customer even buying six plates at once.
The dishes on the menu ranged in price from $1.49 to $6, but Uzamere said prices will be subject to change as the restaurant moves forward. At time of publication, Julion’s Kitchen has no concrete plans for expansion.
Nikita Robinson, the technology transfer coordinator for the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships, said she left the pop-up shop satisfied.
“[Amenze] has outdone herself,” Robinson said. “I would really love to see the Union have more student-alumni businesses that cater to all demographics.”
The pair behind Julion’s Kitchen expressed excitement for the future and the possibility of expansion.
“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Uzamere said. “We hope to have more opportunities like this one-day pop-up shop and are looking into possibly catering in the future.”