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City Tastes & Tipples: Food with soul is just a part of Martha’s story

Martha-Renee.
Martha-Renee.

When it comes to success stories in life, there can’t be many better than Martha-Renee Kolleh’s.

The proprietor and chef of Renee’s Kitchen on Providence Street, has a story like no other in the city, having escaped her war-torn home country of Liberia in 2002 with her three children.

Admitting the British way of life was a culture shock at first, she never lost sight of her dream to cook African contemporary cuisine for a living. She explained: “I have got a degree in economics and business management, I’ve done different courses and had two or three jobs at a time while bringing up my children, but I’ve always come back to cooking.

“I learned from my mother, she was a very, very good cook, and I just like to experiment with food - using my children as my guinea pigs!”

To say Renee’s Kitchen is family affair is understating it somewhat. Opened 10 months ago, the staff consists of just her and her children... when they are able to help in between their studies.

The 51-year-old initially opened a cafe in Ossett, but always harboured ambitions to open her own restaurant, serving up soul food, inspired by the flavours of Africa, Afro-Caribbean and southern American creole styles. As you’d expect, there is plenty of plantain, jerk chicken and curried goat all made with spices that she blends together.

But the choice is endless, according to Martha-Renee, who insists on that personal touch.

“We ask the customers what they want when they come in and we can make it if we have the ingredients,” she added.

Opening Times: Mondays for bookings only. Tuesday to Saturday noon until 4pm and 5pm to 10pm. Sunday 1pm to 9pm.

Menu: Curried chicken, Caribbean jerk pulled, New Orleans stew, cinnamon Cajun butter fried rice, West African joll of rice.

Prices: Mains start from £8 for with lunch buffet set at £10.99 and evening buffet at £16.99.