New restaurant transports diners around the world – Lowell Sun
LOWELL – When customers walk into his new restaurant, Emile Kamadeu wants to do more than feed his guests.
He wants to transport them across the world.
“I want them to come here and feel Africa,” said Kamadeu, co-owner of Sahel Restaurant & Lounge, located at 135 Central St.
Sahel is a full service restaurant serving a mix of African and Caribbean dishes.
“I try to have this mix of cultures,” he said. “It’s very important. We have a menu that is very diverse.
The chefs of the Sahel are from Jamaica and Cameroon, the African country where Kamadeu and Peter Tamajong, his business partner and mentor, come from. A line cook is from Haiti.
“My goal is to share – or present – my African culture, the Caribbean culture, to people who don’t know Africa, to people who don’t know the Caribbean,” Kamadeu said.
Two of the most popular dishes showcase the diversity of the Sahel.
Dancing Jerk Chicken is half a chicken served with pineapple salsa and your choice of rice.
“It’s very, very popular in the Caribbean,” Kamadeu said.
Kamedeu’s favorite dish is Cameroon’s staple Ndole, a peanut stew served with cassava sticks and vegetables.
For those with more American tastes, a burger, chicken sandwich, and pasta dish are available.
Inside the front door, on the right side, is a painting of an African woman carrying a child on her back. These are Kamadeu and his mother, Catherine, a former restaurateur in Cameroon’s second largest city and of great influence.
Kamadeu said his mother would walk 10 miles to the market with him tied behind her in order to avoid paying huge taxi fares. She would put all the items she bought on her head and go home.
“My mother is a hard worker and a very loving person,” he said.
The Sahel can accommodate 200 people, 120 on the ground floor and 80 on the ground floor in a renovated lounge.
Since the building was not up to code, Kamadeu said he and his partners spent more than $ 500,000, mostly on electrical and plumbing upgrades. They installed a new heating system. It was a frustrating journey. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. There were times when Kamadeu began to doubt that the Sahel would ever open up.
But Kamadeu said he had high hopes for the Sahel, which officially opened on September 23. It is open Wednesday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Finally, Kamadeu hopes that the show will welcome African jazz musicians.
“We are meeting our targets so far,” he said. “We were conservative when we developed our business plan. “
Kamadeu, 40, lives in Dracut with his wife, Diane, and their children, Emilson, 7, Jason, 5, and Jaycee, 3.
He came to the United States in 2003, settling in Malden.
“I was a bit lost. I didn’t know who I was or where I was going. I couldn’t find Africans. I wanted to see if I could find my community here, ”he said.
He came to Lowell several times to play football.
“I looked at the city and I thought, ‘Dude, I can feel that the city has a lot of history’. I was like, ‘Why aren’t we doing business here?’ ” he said.
A computer engineer by training, Kamadeu is a senior analyst at Boston Medical.
A road construction project on Central Street is frustrating for business owners, but Kamadeu said customers can park nearby on Hurd Street.
Kamadeu’s pride in the Sahel was evident when he toured a journalist one recent afternoon.
“I think Lowell has a lot of potential,” he said.