I have been so fortunate over the years to meet dozens of immigrant families who own restaurants in the Philadelphia area, people who came to this “land of opportunity” because they could …
I have been so fortunate over the years to meet dozens of immigrant families who own restaurants in the Philadelphia area, people who came to this “land of opportunity” because they could not pursue their dream of a better life for themselves and their children in the land of their birth, especially if that was a Third World country, where upward mobility is just a chimera.
When they get here, they almost invariably work like beavers, often going to school at the same time, obey the law and become exemplary citizens, setting a meritorious example for their children.
A local example is Kwabena Buatchi, 37, who is celebrating two years of owning Buutchiis Grille, 35 E. Butler Ave., in Ambler. (His childhood nickname was “Buutchiis.”) He was 19 when his family emigrated from Ghana to Yeadon, where they had relatives, in 2002. Kwabena studied graphic design in Ghana (his impressive artwork adorns the walls at Buutchiis Grille), but he always cooked for family members at home, learning from his grandmother and aunt.
He worked in a warehouse in Ambler from 2003 to 2006, so he became familiar with that community. He worked at French Creek Learning Center in Phoenixville from 2009 until it closed down in 2010, then at the University of Pennsylvania until 2012 and then as a compliance officer and medical records director at a company connected to the U of P School of Nursing. He was there from 2012 to 2017, but the company was sold, and he was laid off.
“My wife then said, 'You have a good management and organization background, and you are a good cook,' so I started a food truck.” Kwabena took the food truck to many different locations — college events, private events, beer gardens, office complexes and the parking lot for a farmers market almost every Sunday in East Norriton. Meanwhile, Kwabena also pursued higher education while he was working, in an Associate's Degree program at Pennsylvania Institute of Technology in 2005, earning a BA in supply chain management and logistics at Shippensburg University in 2008 (while also in the National Guard), then a Master's degree at PCOM in organizational management in 2011 and then post-master's work at PCOM in cognitive behavior therapy in 2012 and 2013.
In 2017 he started the food truck. Then one day the owner of a pizza restaurant, Candida's, at 35 E. Butler Pike in Ambler came to Kwabena's truck and offered him a deal. “He had other businesses and said he wanted to get out of Candida's, so he asked if I wanted to take over his location instead of selling my food out of a truck. I already knew Ambler, so I saw this offer as divine grace.”
Thus, Kwabena opened Buutchiis Grille in April of 2018, selling authentic African and Caribbean cuisine, the only restaurant of its kind in the immediate area. “Things were slow at first, but the word got around, and the second year was much better,” said Kwabena. “Then came the pandemic. Of course business slowed down, but we stayed open for takeout. And we were lucky that some people have also made donations. One lady did a fundraiser for us, and she was not even a customer.”
If you go on yelp.com, the nation's most popular website for customer reviews of restaurants, you will see 75 reviews of Buutchiis Grille, the large majority of which are five stars. Here is a typical one from Jeff H.: “What a great takeout meal I enjoyed from here during the Covid-19 pandemic … The food was tasty with fresh ingredients expertly prepared. I am so glad I went here. I ordered the Ghanaian peanut butter soup with turkey and sides of Fufu (kinda like a mashed cassava), which I put in the soup with delicious results. Another side was Kelewele, which were outstanding. These lightly fried plantains had a kick to them, which I loved. A Ghanaian meat pie (with corned beef filling) completed the feast. And all this was for under $20. What a good deal! … I can still happily taste that peanut butter soup!”
We also ate there recently. The BYOB is not fancy and is almost all takeout, but everything we had was divine, the quantities were huge, and the prices were crazy low!
Kwabena lives in East Norriton with his wife of eight years, Nana Adjoa, who is also from Ghana, son Terry, 8, and daughter Gabrielle, 6. “I would also like very much to publicly thank a dear friend,
Stephen Mensah,” said Kwabena. “He’s a mechanical engineer at Acelor Mittal Company in Coatesville. He’s been there every time I’ve needed him, and I can’t leave him out of this story. Stephen is also from Ghana, graduated from Temple in 2006 and is like a brother to me. We have been friends for over 12 years … I feel hopeful about the future. I believe everything happens for a reason. It is all at God's direction.”
For more information: buutchiisgrille.com or 215-643-2400. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com