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St. Bakhita's Restaurant: Bringing the Community Together

When we arrived at Saint Bakhita’s in late June, the Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant staff met us with so much enthusiasm. Chef Ojok Brian was excited to share that the restaurant had secured two regular catering contracts providing lunch to Saint Ambrosoli Hospital and Bank of Africa. Aside from these contracts, the restaurant had gathered quite the following with over 20 customers visiting for lunch each day. Akello Cinderella, a SBVTC fellow and chef Brian’s right-hand-woman in the kitchen, expressed her dreams for the future of the restaurant after seeing its growing success over the past 6 months. Her eyes lit up as she told me about her vision to create posters and advertise the restaurant on the local radio station, wanting to create awareness of the restaurant’s offerings to the broader community. With the advancements of architectural bids for the construction of Saint Bakhita’s Early Childhood Development Center and new street-facing restaurant dining facility in the works, the Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant staff are eager to spread the word about the restaurant and its upcoming improvements. Inspired by the work the restaurant staff had already put in to grow the business since the last time we visited, and the true passion they expressed for continuous improvement, we jumped on board, challenging them to think outside the box and enabling them to put their visions for the restaurant into motion.

Taking inspiration from the popular football matches and movie nights that Saint Bakhita’s has hosted in the past, we decided to embark on putting together a special event to welcome the community into Saint Bakhita’s to explore the restaurant and spend a night together in community. After brainstorming ways that we could introduce almost one hundred community members to chef Brian’s exceptional dishes, we decided to surprise them by taking a twist on a traditional Ugandan pastry. Chapati, a favorite among locals and visiting Notre Dame students, is a pan fried flatbread flavored with spices and vegetables. Each chef boasts their own unique concoction of spices to make their signature chapati, and locals are drawn to establishments with the best and tastiest recipes. A variation of chapati is also commonly served rolled with an omelet in a dish called rolex. After learning about the ways that chapati can be modified to make exciting new dishes, we decided to push the envelope farther, challenging chef Brian to create chapati variations that the community would not have tried before. He started experimenting to discover a unique new chapati flavor profile.

In the meantime, the team of Notre Dame students focused on other Saint Bakhita revenue generating business ventures. Carlos Flores, a 5th year architecture student assisting with the construction developments for the new restaurant building, ventured out to Saint Bakhita’s Innovation Acres to harvest honey from the dozens of beehives maintained by Saint Bakhita students and staff. We were eager to package this yield and test honey sales in the local Kalongo market boasting our new St. B’s Honey branding labels, but we were equally excited to get a taste of the product ourselves. Inspired by the similarities between Ugandan chapati and French crepes, we decided to add honey to our chapati breakfast for a sweet twist on the local classic. This new flavor combination sparked chef Brian to experiment with sweet and spicy varieties of the original Saint Bakhita’s chapati recipe. A few recipe variations and taste tests later, we knew we had a winning line up to offer to the Kalongo community at Chapati Night!

Planning to host an event like this is exciting and fun, but it can also be a lot of work. We needed all hands on deck to ensure we could pull off a successful night of festivities. Notre Dame students worked with Amanyire Collins, head of Saint Bakhita’s ICT department, to print advertisements to distribute among the community. We taught SBVTC fellow Kyozaire Vicky how to use Canva to create eye-catching advertisements. After some consultation with Saint Bakhita staff to craft an enticing message in both English and Acholi, we printed posters, gathered Saint Bakhita students, and spread around town to post news of our upcoming event.

Encouraged by the excitement of community members, we got to work preparing the necessary supplies to welcome dozens of people within our gates. Chef Brian calculated the ingredients needed to feed so many mouths and Cinderella shopped in bulk and purchased a variety of sodas sure to please the guests. Vicky gathered the projector and all of its cords and cables to prepare to offer a movie night when guests arrived. Collins and Grace pumped out Bakhita Butter odii (peanut butter) production while Alex, Carlos, and I labeled and packaged peanut butter and honey containers. Quin set up tables, chairs, and blankets, double checked that all of our nighttime lighting was working, and created signs to draw the community down the street and into our doors. At this point, we were ready! The final preparation began as the Saint Bakhita catering students buckled down in the kitchen to cook as much chapati as possible.

The night got off to a slow drizzly start, but we didn’t let the weather rain on our parade! After a short shower, we wiped off the chairs, opened up the gates, and invited the community in. To our delight, people came pouring in, gathered with friends and family to come together for a night of entertainment and good, unique food. The chapati variations were a hit, as we sold around 40 full size chapatis of each flavor combination. We were pleased that the community loved the new dishes and that Saint Bakhita’s Restaurant earned 133,400 UGX in total revenue. Aside from the sales and great community exposure for Saint Bakhita Restaurant, the event was a success because of the way that it was received by the people. The community raved about the uniqueness of our delicious chapati variations, commented on the wonderful space that Saint Bakhita’s has and thanked us for the opportunity to use it as a location for the community to come together. People said they couldn’t wait for Saint Bakhita’s to host an event like this again so they could return with even more friends and family. We will surely host an event like this to introduce the Kalongo community to the new and improved Saint Bakhita Restaurant space when the new building construction is complete next year. Until then, we’ll be relishing in the success of our fun community night and brainstorming ways that we can invite Kalongo within our walls in new ways in the future!

As for the Notre Dame students, we enjoyed Chef Brian’s chapati and his new flavor variations so much throughout our time at Saint Bakhita’s that we were sure to receive a lesson in making chapati before our trip was up. We had such a great time connecting with the Saint Bakhita’s students, staff, and the Kalongo community. This day left us with full hearts, full bellies, and memories (and recipes!) to cherish for a lifetime.

Written by Abbie Hegarty, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (BBA, '23) with degrees in Management Consulting and Spanish. She is an incoming associate at Boston Consulting Group and was a Powerful Means Fellow in the summer of 2023, spending a month at St. Bakhita VTC. She continues to advise student projects associated with the Impact Consulting Minor and Innovation for Impact Club at Notre Dame.


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