Two sisters from London are determined to give Nairobians the hamburger experience of a lifetime
Nestled behind a large red London bus in a Westlands yard, hedged between a Maasai market, a industrially made chain sandwich restaurant and a recently-closed down kwik-fit tyre repair centre, sits a cream coloured food truck, branded in bright graphic patterns.
Sam and Natalie, the brains behind the popular Mama Rocks food truck, are sisters with no formal culinary training who share a passion for cooking and eating delicious food. Their journey began in London, where they grew up in a mixed Kenyan and Nigerian family. In London, they were exposed to many different African cuisines including their Nigerian mother’s cooking and it was their love for the bold and distinctive flavours of their motherland’s cuisine, that inspired Sam and Natalie to bring these flavours to life in their own unique way. For three years, the idea brewed in their minds as they paid their annual visit to their family in Kenya. On these visits, they began noticing the extent to which the culinary scene in Nairobi had begun evolving. As the variety of dining options and frequency of diners dining out increased, Sam and Natalie decided they wanted to bring an interesting urban brand that celebrated Africa to Kenya. The vehicle for this vision: the burger. As their vision became more concrete, they one day decided to quit their respective jobs in order to pursue this unique dream.
Starting out as waitresses at Patty n Bun, a specialty burger restaurant in London, Sam and Natalie learned the inner workings of customer service in the food industry. When they weren’t working at the restaurant, they were at the library doing research on the Kenyan market, crunching numbers and getting estimate figures for the venture they were about to invest in. In the beginning months after arriving in Nairobi, Sam and Natalie spent time doing on-the-ground market research meeting with restauranteurs and finding suppliers for their menu. Sam and Natalie aimed to differentiate the Mama Rocks burger from the rest of the Nairobi burger panorama by creating homemade specialty sauces such as their honeyed nutty mayo and coastal Zanzibar chutney. “We just sat down and thought ‘what would taste amazing?’ then we played around with food and flavours and came up with some recipes” says Sam of their menu conceptualization.
At The Yard, the official name for the location they are set up in, Mama Rocks offer African-influenced gourmet burgers with a London twist. From their Fela Supa, a West African inspired peanut crusted chicken burger with fiery chili and coconut mayo, to their Mango Maasai Mama, an East African inspired beef burger with signature chili mango sauce and roasted red bell pepper, their menu will leave your mouth salivating and your stomach churning. And it doesn’t stop there: choices include chicken wings two ways, fries, plantains, milkshakes (both boozy and regular), fresh juices and desserts to compliment your burger.
Sam and Natalie agree they were lucky to find the communal space at The Yard in Westlands. Originally, they intended to open a restaurant, not a food truck, but as circumstances changed and finding a piece of land in a prime location was challenging, they adapted. Their location changes may have been a blessing in disguise. The Yard is home to The Bus and The Alchemist bar as well as other eateries, making it a lively destination on weekdays and weekends. The venue hosts events ranging from doggy socials to dub reggae nights, bringing in an eclectic range of individuals who try (and love) Mama Rocks burgers.
You can catch Mama Rocks at The Yard from Tuesday to Sunday from noon until late. Their menu is also available for delivery but it really is worth making the trip to The Yard to get the full experience.