Lookman Afolayan Mashwood who used to sell ice cream in Lagos now is a successful owner of the Buka - a Nigerian restaurant in New York. By selling ice cream he saved enough money to buy a plane ticket and move to The Big Apple.
It was 1996 when he arrived and Lookman had to change many jobs before opening his restaurant. He sold pepper soup, he was a carpenter and a dish washer, a cook and a driver of a cab.
When Mashwood and his girlfriend, Australian architect Natalie Goldberg, decided to open a Nigerian restaurant they've found an abandoned buiding and reconstructed it for 8 month. Bringing their dream to life costed them $250,000. But now "Buka" is a unique place that offers a taste of authentic dishes to Nigerians who crave good home cooking and non-Nigerians who just want to give it a try.
“What we have now is unique and fantastic! It’s good food. I can tell you, 98 per cent of my food is not processed. I don’t have any regrets. I feel whatever you have, if you do it right, people will love you for it,” Mashood said.
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BUKA serves Nigerian traditional food such as pounded yam, egusi soup, amala, edikaikong, Isi-ewu, pepper-soup, goat meat, stockfish, snail etc. Also, some cultural events take place in a restaurant. Such as art shows, Nigerian fashion shows and musical perfomances. Mashwood says that he feels like an ambassador that helps people to know his country better trough the food and local music played at his eater.
Back when Mashwood lived in Lagos he says he was just one of great amount of people who wanted to move to America. And know his message to those who want to immigrate is that America is truly the land of opportunity, but only to people who are ready to work really hard: "When you come to this country, you’ve never worked in your life. I don’t care the kind of job you do in Nigeria, the real work is in America. Here, there are people that have two or three jobs. You actually go to work at 9, you come back at 5, then you rest till 7 O’clock and go to another job. So don’t think you gonna come here and pick money on the street. Here you’re going to really really really sweat! But if you sweat, there’s a reward for you. It’s not going to be forever, it’s just for some time."