- He operates three restaurants in Beltsville, Maryland, downtown Washington D.C and Newark, New Jersey.
- In 2020, his business empire was estimated at $3.5 million (just over Sh400 million).
From hosting current US Secretary of States Antony John Blinken to President William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta and Kenya's opposition chief , Raila Odinga, nothing about the man before us betrays his top class.
One of his restaurants is along the diplomatic square in Washington DC, hosting top executives and world leaders.
Clad in a checked blue shirt and a free flowing pair of sporty pants, Kevin Onyona, the proprietor of Swahili Village, a niche chain of restaurants serving African delicacies in the US still struggles to conceal his big profile.
In 2020, his business empire was estimated at $3.5 million (just over Sh400 million).
He operates three restaurants in Beltsville, Maryland, downtown Washington D.C and Newark, New Jersey.
He is planning to open two more stalls in Northern Virginia and Manhattan, New York city.
"I find satisfaction in serving my clients. It gives me pleasure attending to global leaders by promoting African culture,''Onyona tells the Star in an exclusive interview.
He was not born a chef, neither did he went to school fro the same. A self taught chef, Onyona's American dream that was sparked by his girlfriend's trip to school is spreading like a wild fire.
Driven by love and the desire to reconnect with his girlfriend, who had moved to Maryland for her studies, Onyona found a reprieve in a sales executive job at the Home Depot.
While at the sales job, he often found himself frustrated by the lack of African restaurants that offered a fine dining experience suitable for family outings.
“All the time to take out my family to eat out, restaurants around did not have dinner spaces. They did not have places that served a nice, decent meal with good hygiene and ambiance. There was no African fine dining to take my family,” he explained.
Rather than merely complain about the absence of suitable dining options, he made the bold choice to resign from his job and venture into the hospitality industry to address the unmet need he had identified.
“ I found a problem in the community, the African community, who were struggling to find a good space to dine with their families and enjoy the foods they were familiar with,” he told the Star.
Onyona’s passion for cooking, nurtured during his childhood while watching his grandmother prepare meals, guided his career path. He firmly believes that everyone should have some culinary skills.
With the guidance of a consultant, Onyona embarked on a journey of self-discovery in the culinary arts. His determination and love for cooking led to the establishment of a restaurant that exclusively serves African cuisine.
In 2016, ‘Swahili Village’ was born, with its first eatery located in Beltsville, Maryland, a town known for agricultural research and innovations.
“I took into account all the aspects that were missing in the restaurants – good service, good food, a cool ambiance, and African music. When we launched the restaurant, the reception was very good,” he said.
His entrepreneurial spirit is not just about serving food and beverages; it’s about creating an authentic African experience for diners. The restaurant offers unique African delicacies, such as Nyama choma, Ugali, and Kachumbari, a Kenyan favorite.
His restaurants stand out due to their Kenyan preparation style. Swahili Village also features dishes like Ndengu (Greengrams), chapati, pilau, mbuzi choma, chicken curry, fish curry, tilapia curry, African tea, and Tusker, a popular Kenyan beer.
The restaurant caters to groups of five to seven people with offerings of grilled goat, beef, and chicken, accompanied by collard greens, spinach, cabbage, ugali, and chapati, all topped with kachumbari.
In a year, the Swahili Village restaurants serve an impressive 720,000 people, averaging 15,000 customers per week and 60,000 per month.
Currently, the brand employs close to 300 people from over 10 different countries.He however revealed plans to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Labor to facilitate the hiring of Kenyan workers with specialised skills.
“We are working with several universities in Kenya, signing different MoUs to allow their students to come do their internships here, to build their experience, train them, and absorb them when opportunities arise,” Onyona said.
He exclusively told the Star about his ambition to set up a foundation to give back to the society.
"I'm planning to exit my current role at Swahili Village to concentrate on something much bigger. This is likely to happen in next one to two years, but i will be around to offer visionary leadership,'' he said.
Apart from expanding in the US, Onyona is salivating for Dubai, and hopes to pitch a branch soonest.