Owner of KC Restaurant Now Cook In Africa Says, ‘Our Meals Are Intricate’

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KC RestaurantTo many, it might sound like “Jello fries” when Victor Ejelonu, a Nigerian immigrant, says it.

In fact, he is saying something considerably more appetizing: jollof rice, a dish spiced with tomatoes, onions and a variety of seasonings.

“Every country in West Africa has its own version,” Ejelonu said this week. “The Wolof tribe in Mali claim to have the original recipe. Ghana and Nigeria say they have the best. It depends on where you eat it.”

The jollof rice, Ejelonu said, is one of the highlights on the menu at My Village Grill, which he opened in an Independence strip mall in 2018, closed in 2022 and reopened last week in midtown Kansas City at 26 E. 39th St.

Before he arrived in the U.S. 18 years ago, Ejelonu was a cook and a manager at his family’s restaurant in Benin City, a Nigerian metropolis with more than a million people. In Kansas City, he worked in health care administration at what was then Truman Medical Center and St. Luke’s. After work, he grew restless. He started cooking again.

“People in Kansas City, they go to work and come home and don’t know what to do,” he said. “So I would cook and invite friends over to eat some free food. And eventually, I said, ‘I gotta monetize this.’ That’s how the restaurant was conceived.”

The menu in midtown will be familiar to those who dined with Ejelonu in Independence. Popular dishes include suya (spicy, barbecued meats on skewers), puff puffs (fried sweet dough) and all kinds of fufu, a starchy side made from your choice of yam, plantains, oatmeal or yucca. “You dip it in a soup,” Ejelonu said. “We have okra soup, a spinach soup, egusi soup — which is a melon seed-based soup — and many more soups and sauces.”

Ejelonu considers My Village Grill a West African restaurant; he is Nigerian, his wife is Liberian, and he employs cooks from Ghana and Cameroon. But he would like to eventually serve foods that represent the entire African continent. He said he’s been trying to reach out to local African chefs who might be looking for work.

“We’re adding new menu items slowly, but we need the staff to have that traditional background and experience,” he said.

My Village Grill’s hours are currently Wednesday through Sunday, 4 p.m. “until the last person leaves,” Ejelonu said. The space, which was recently leased by a church but was a restaurant in the 1990s and early 2000s, is about 1,900 square feet, with 12 tables in the dining room. Ejelonu plans to apply for a liquor license soon, but for now the only wine available is nonalcoholic palm wine, which comes from the sap of a palm tree.

Meals at My Village Grill can sometimes take a little while to prepare, so Ejelonu recommended calling orders in advance (913-999-2072) if you’re in a rush. He’s also been experimenting with a buffet on the weekends — both to let African food novices try out different dishes and to accommodate diners pressed for time.

“Our meals are intricate,” Ejelonu said. “It can take 40 minutes sometimes. So, the buffet is for those folks who just can’t wait. But everything here is freshly made. In West Africa, we like our food made fresh. We want to eat it straight out of the stove.”


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