YumVillage’s Godwin Ihentuge isn’t a just chef with a food truck hoping to one day open a brick and mortar restaurant, he’s a caterer with a marketing background who wants to see changes within the restaurant industry and help emerging chefs navigate the business.
His food truck — which serves West African and Caribbean cuisine — is an extension of YumVillage pop-up and catering, which Ihentuge started as a way to help chefs manage out-of-kitchen issues that go along with having a food business. He likens it to the way record companies worked before the age of streaming, handling the business details so artists could focus on their craft. He used his marketing background to gain insight from diners to improve a chef’s business model, so success was more likely.
Ihentuge’s father recently retired and bequeathed him a purple and green food truck, so he put YumVillage on wheels and began serving the West African and Caribbean dishes in Detroit neighborhoods. He makes mild, slow-cooked curry chicken, a sweet-spicy jerk chicken, red beans and rice and jollof rice, which is made using onions and garlic sauteed in palm oil and parboiled in tomato puree. He also deep-fried plantains and grit cakes, which have polenta, fresh-cut garlic and Parmesan cheese.
He hopes to continue the work of YumVillage in the truck.
“I’m still in that process of piloting out, working with up-and-coming chefs, helping eliminate barriers and give them an avenue to eventually even come on the truck alongside me, or do their own things,” he said.
Ihentuge — a business major with a marketing background — says his next move is to continue to help chefs that are just starting out with a brick-and-mortar “incubator village” in Detroit.
“In my experience so far with being on the truck, doing pop-ups, working around with different chefs and going around to different cities, what I think Detroit — and there are a few places that are kind of building to this — but what I think Detroit needs a experiential place,” he said
“I’d like to have a YumVillage that is dedicated to rotating chefs coming in, in an incubator village setting, with music, entertainment and art. If I can re-create the artist village of the French Quarter here in Detroit and really have it as an avenue that an up-and-coming chef can come in, have all those barriers that come with opening up a business at least alleviated or streamlined and then have some direct access.”
Ihentuge is on the board of Colors Detroit Restaurant, a nonprofit restaurant training center, and also goes to Washington, D.C., every year to lobby for fair wages and sick leave for restaurant workers.
“I think that the restaurant industry right now is poised for some changes that benefit the workers and, in turn, those workers can now do more for their communities,” he said.
For the rest of the summer, however, he wants to bring affordable, quality food to more people.
“We’re pushing quality and we’re pushing community within the neighborhoods,” he said. “Half the menu is vegetarian ... nothing on the menu is over $5 and everything is a la carte. It’s affordable, but you can also customize it.”
Most weekends Ihentuge and the YumVillage food truck can be found at the Villages Beirgarten Friday and Saturday evenings at 1428 Van Dyke in Detroit. Besides serving food, Ihentuge has also organized art and music for the evenings.
He also appears at the Market on the Ave in the Live6 neighborhood at Livernois and Six Mile. YumVillage is parked there noon-5 p.m. the second and fourth Saturday of the month (July 22, Aug. 12 and 26, Sept. 9 and 23 and Oct. 14 and 28).
This weekend, however, Ihentuge will be parked in Ferndale at the Pig & Whiskey festival on Nine Mile and East Troy streets on the east side of Woodward. Besides his West African and Caribbean offerings, YumVillage will also serve the jerk burger that earned the “best presentation” prize at last month’s Burger Battle Detroit at Eastern Market.
Visit yumvillage.com for information.