DICKINSON — Since 2016, a Dickinson entrepreneur and Haitian native has brought her island culture to the Western Edge through her YouTube channel that has 200,000 subscribers. Now, her childhood dream of opening a restaurant has become a reality.
Lamise Oyugi opened Island Cuisine , located at 30 Seventh St. W. in the St. Joe’s Plaza, in February of this year and has continued building on her passion of sharing Caribbean culture with a wide selection of special Haitian and Jamaican dishes.
Six years ago , Oyugi decided to launch a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing Haitian, Jamaican and African recipes. Three hundred recipes later, Oyugi has 200,000 subscribers between her two YouTube channels — one in English and the other in Creole.
“I think (it’s) my personality because for YouTube, people have to connect with you even if you have good videos. If they don’t connect, it doesn’t matter,” Oyugi said. “And I make food videos — everybody wants to eat, everybody wants to learn how to cook.”
Oyugi began cooking at age 10. To her, “food is art.”
“Cooking has always been a thing for me. Anybody that knows me from grade school, just knew this was going to happen one day. It was just a matter of when and where,” she noted.
Prior to moving to Dickinson in 2003, Oyugi lived in Fargo — which is where a lot of Haitians reside, she said.
“A lot of Haitian people that I have met me now, they’re like, ‘I don’t understand how you still speak Creole and cook good Haitian food,’” she said. “But again, food has always been a thing of mine. So everywhere I go, I’m always in the kitchen. I visited Uganda a couple times. I don’t care to socialize; I just want to be in the kitchen to learn new things. It’s always just been in me, I guess.”
Oyugi noted that bringing her business into the St. Joe’s Plaza has been an interesting process, especially since all three of her children were born in the former hospital building.
“It definitely gives a lot of new business owners a different opportunity. So it’s good,” she said.
Featuring Haitian and Jamaican recipes at Island Cuisine, Oyugi said she enjoys being able to offer customers that option, especially since she’s ran into many Dickinson residents who travel to the Caribbean.
“This is a different type of food you would find here… Try some flavors, try something different… And they will never be disappointed no matter what they choose,” she said, adding, “(We’re) bringing the island to Dickinson.”
Customer favorites range from curry chicken, curry goat, chicken and dumpling soup to the jerk chicken. Jamaican curry chicken is tender chunks of chicken, cooked to the bone in a rich curry sauce along with vegetables and is served with Haitian rice and beans. A Haitian favorite is the Frittay, which is fried chicken served with fried plantains and pikliz — or spicy coleslaw. Oyugi hopes that people can taste the freshness of ingredients when they come in as well as pick up on the authenticity of the recipes.
“So far, everybody loves it. We’ve had people come here (and) sometimes this place is full,” she said. “And I usually try my best to talk to every single customer just to get a little feedback and it’s always been good.”
As of now, Oyugi has two employees and her husband, business partner and oldest son help out as well. Eventually, Oyugi is hoping to expand her restaurant and build on her menu.
While running her own restaurant, Oyugi also loves to teach cooking and hosts classes on Mondays at Salt Kitchen & Co .
“… When people are in front of me, watching exactly what’s being put in and how everything is made, it really brings me joy,” she remarked.
Hours at Island Cuisine are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. For additional information, visit Island Cuisine LLC on Facebook or visit “ Let’s Get Cooking With Lamise O ” on YouTube.