Executive Chef Yusef El-Amin and (in the background, from l-r) Rakhya, CEO/managing partner; wife Venicia, vice president of product development; and Tajah, director of sales; with kids
Driven by the desire to make authentic soul food that didn’t leave people scheduling angioplasties, last year Yusef El-Amin began transitioning his well-established soul-food business, Chef El-Amin, into a healthier endeavor. The company’s previous iterations include a New Rochelle soul-food restaurant (which El-Amin founded three decades ago but is no longer open), as well as a catering business.
Today, the company’s focus is on creating healthy, shippable meals that include halal meats, vegan substitutes, and natural sweeteners. The firm is a family affair: Yusef is executive chef and managing partner; his wife, Venicia, is the vice president of product development; his two daughters, Rakhya and Tajah, are the CEO/managing partner and director of sales, respectively.
“What we all have in common is that we have to eat. Why not eat great comfort food that’s better for you?” says Rakhya of the company’s philosophy.
Joining forces with ShopRite in May, Chef El-Amin’s “Soulful Heat & Eat” meals — including Halal Chicken Mozambique and Vegan Collard Greens — are now available at the hot and freshly prepared food section in select local ShopRite stores. And as a part of the Harlem Local Vendors Program, a partnership with the Columbia School of Business, Chef El-Amin recently gained access to regional buyers, from Whole Foods to Fairway.
These coalitions helped the company increase sales by 200 percent in 2017, as the brand pivots toward a wider audience. “We are currently speaking with a leading co-packer,” says Rakhya, “who will replicate our recipes, package, and distribute our product with the goal of selling direct to consumers on the Home Shopping Network.”