Detroit entrepreneur Prej Iroegbu had a plan to feed Detroiters delicious Nigerian eats—and he’s doing it while navigating unexpected challenges that came along the way. Grab a fork for this mouthwatering tale.
DETROIT—The aroma hits you first.
Wafting up from the compact, frenzied (yet controlled) mobile kitchen are delicious smells of deep, savory, spice-infused flavors that do little justice until they tantalize your tastebuds—infusing the palette with every bite.
A cultural eating journey from the food novice to the epicurist is what Detroit-based entrepreneur Prej Iroegbu wants people to experience when they pull up to his food truck, Fork In Nigeria, 19910 Livernois.
A Food Truck from Nigeria opened up earlier this year after Iroegbu visited Texas and saw many Mexican-based food trucks.
So Iroegbu got to work after he asked himself this question: “What if I served Nigerian dishes out of a food truck?”
That’s when his food truck came to fruition.
Iroegbu, who has been in America for 20 years, said his upbringing in Nigeria impacted his food truck interests.
Eating in Nigeria
“I just wanted to share my food the same way I grew up,” Iroegbu said, adding that the street-food environment was profound.
Iroegbu grew up on a farm, and he was raised preparing food with pots sitting on firewood.
“I grew up to understand the difference between a Nigerian dish and Nigerian food prepared in the Nigerian way. We’ve made sure to bring that difference over here to the United States,” he said on his website.
Fork In Nigeria is a reflection of the cooking skills of Nigerian women and chefs.
Iroegbu said that if people wanted to purchase food, Nigerians would have to find vendors who sell it out of a cart, and food preservation was virtually nonexistent before restaurants came on the scene.
Bringing Those Roots to America
“We didn’t have ways of preserving food, so if food wasn’t served that day it wasn’t served— food was always fresh for the customers,” Iroegbu said. “That was the idea—we wanted to make sure it was fresh [and the] food truck is the same idea.”
Iroegbu said that the foods he and his team cook are fresh and “taste much better” when not processed. He also said he didn’t want his food truck to be lumped in with other restaurants and establishments categorized as African food.
“Africans have been put into one category,” he said of food categories, music selections, and more. “A lot of Africans who came here were put into the same category. If you’re from Ghana they call you an African restaurant. If you are from Sudan they call you an African restaurant. If you sell Korean food they call it Korean food. When I came here I said, ‘no’.”
Iroegbu added that the country of Nigeria has over 250 ethic groups with hundreds of different meals. He also said that most of his customers are not Nigerian.
“Nigerians are usually more into eating their food at home; a lot of times when they go out they want to try something else instead of coming here,” he said, adding that his customers are non-Nigerians. “Most Nigerians live in the suburbs. I decided I would come to the city and what a good place to start with [some of the] largest Black-owned businesses in Michigan. I want to be a part of that and go to a place they had not tried before.”