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Meet Kwasi Kwaa and Shelley Nason of The Chop Bar at Dudley Cafe in Roxbury

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kwasi Kwaa and Shelley Nason.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When I was in college, a group of friends and I started a non-profit organization called H.O.P.E Inc. after one of our fellow members lost his life to gun violence. Our mission was to use music, spoken word, and visual arts as outlets to teach and encourage nonviolent communication. After two years of doing after school and summer programs with Teens Against Gang Violence we took a break. I had been pursuing a career as a chef during this time. A few years ago, an old friend and colleague reached out said he was opening a cafe and his vision was to have the place be like a stage for the community. He wanted us to start our open mics, which we were well known for since college. I always admired the poetry and spoken word but remained more of an organizer rather than participant on stage. By this time, I had worked my way through the food business and I wanted to find a way to bring my craft to the open mics. So The Chop Bar pop up was born. Every month during the open mic Shelley and I take over the cafe’s kitchen and execute a carefully planned menu just for that one special night. As a cook, I always gravitated toward simple yet powerful flavors and textures and I was always disappointed I wasn’t exploring any of the flavors from my own culture. In Ghana where I’m from, a Chop Bar is a road side shack that sells home cooked snacks and full meals and drinks. This was exactly what I wanted the concept of this pop up to be. Originally, The Chop Bar was an African street food pop up, but I wanted to use it as an opportunity to go on a culinary adventure and I had friends who were as thrilled by the idea as I was. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by culinary minds who shared this vision. Shelley Nason is one of those minds. As a friend and colleague, Shelley jumped right into The Chop Bar adventure. Even though we didn’t start together, she fast become a strong partner in the project. We first worked together doing catering, where Chef Ethan Paige (friend and mentor) put us together as a team and we’ve worked together ever since. Shelley has worked her way through restaurants and hotels throughout the city, such as Rialto amongst others, and she brings a strong presence to the pop up. From Shelley, “For me my inspiration began by being in the kitchen with my grandmother, my aunt, and my mum. Food has always been a part of the fabric of who we are as a family. From Sunday dinner to elaborate holiday celebrations, you can trace our family’s story through food.” We both bring our family’s culture and stories to the kitchen and use that experience to interpret new foods.   Currently as an international street food concept, we sell a different menu every month. Our process is very simple, we pick a region or country, we research the food and culture and pick some of their interesting street side foods, slightly elevate them without compromising taste and textures, and we bring the finished menu live to our audience on game night at the open mic. Last year we were featured in Boston Globe’s Wednesday food section, Eater Boston covered us when we did a night at A&B Burgers, where we were both chefs at the time, and the open mic won Boston Magazine’s best open mic in the city in their best of series. Dudley Cafe took the best neighborhood cafe in this year’s best of series. We look at The Chop Bar as more than a pop up restaurant, along with our friends and partners, we have built a small community were we can all share a good meal and experience something special.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Our challenges have been minimal simply because we didn’t really start working with money in mind. We were a group of friends who wanted to cook together and share food that we believe in with everyone around us. The stress of working a full time job and trying to come up with menu ideas and follow up on our research is where the challenges lie. Making sure that we always have something new, creative and delicious is what we strive to always do.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We are The Chop Bar, we are a global street food pop up restaurant. We apply formal technique to elevate some of your favorite street side and comfort foods. We don’t just serve food at our events, we bring a community experience, and I think this sets us very far apart from other pop up restaurants. We are proud of the integrity we bring to our food. We are a group of proud chefs and cooks who let our individual personalities flow through our food, and more importantly we share our cultures we experience in our little adventures with everyone who is interested.

What were you like growing up?
I was a very social person, and still am. I’ve always enjoyed going to new places, meeting new people and just trying new things. I would really describe myself as the shyest extrovert out there. I think that has been one of the qualities that has helped me tremendously in this journey.

Contact Info:

  • Website: the-chop-bar.com
  • Phone: 617-233-8998, 617 -312-4346
  • Email: thechopbar.street@gmail.com
  • Instagram: thechopbar_streetfood

Image Credit:
Lauren Miller

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