Comcast Entrepreneur Spotlight: Authentic Ethnic Cuisine reflects owner's journey
A new pop-up eatery arrived last month at Drexel’s campus. Authentic Ethnic Cuisine combines dishes from West Africa, the West Indies and American soul food, reflecting the personal and professional journey of owner Arthur Browne.
Browne has previously offered his version of “diasporic cuisine” in different endeavors over the past 15-plus years.
After years of pop-up locations in different offices across Center City, the location in the Northside Dining Terrace on North 34th Street is his first semi-permanent venture.
Browne immigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone at the age of 8. He grew up in North Philadelphia and went to Northeast High School. Now residing in West Philadelphia, he has built his menu around the dishes and experiences he’s had with those from other cultures.
“My journey is what led me to the cuisine,” he said of his interaction with different ethnic groups. “Looking at them as a child, I didn’t see the difference, and growing up with the different foods, to me, I became the diaspora. What I put forth is my journey.”
The menu features staples of different cultures, like jerk chicken, mac and cheese, and jollof rice. Pairings cross borders, like Chilean baked salmon with fettuccine alfredo or smothered chicken and plantains.
Browne turned to cooking after his daughter was born. “It was better that I use my own personal skill set to try to make a way for myself,” he said. After catering for years, he partnered in 2018 with Fooda, which has brought thousands of food companies to serve meals in office buildings across the country.
Browne was in the process of opening his own location at the Radnor Financial Center in Wayne when the pandemic hit in 2020. He left that spot and waited until workers returned to Center City before returning to office service this year.
“Certain things don’t work in certain spots,” Browne said about what he learned from his previous experiences and brought to his new location. “Vending gave us the opportunity to see what products are popular, which allowed us to formulate and craft our menu. The pop-ups were telling us exactly which menu items were popular. All of these things were a learning experience for us and we’re learning every step of the way.”
In 2016, Browne partnered with the Black Enterprise Center, which helped scale up his business, taking it from his home to a professional cooking location. He called the decision “the most important business move I have ever made” and has referred many start-up entrepreneurs to join the community when growing their brands.
“Initially I joined them just for the kitchen space but then, being a member, I started to understand all the different advantages you have and all the opportunities for business assistance,” Browne said. “Anyone who mentions what to cook or what to cater, my first few words to them are ‘Get your license, insurance, and send an application to the Enterprise Center.’”
The partnership between Aramark and Authentic Ethnic Cuisine perfectly illustrates the type of work that’s done at the Enterprise Center, according to Val Cadet, director of business operations for the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprise.
“Chef Browne has been a longtime client, accessing our shared commercial kitchen space alongside business advisory services and ultimately connecting with large institutional partners here in West Philadelphia. It has been a pleasure to watch him grow and scale his business over the years, but our work is far from over,” she said.
Browne started his residency at the Northside Dining Terrace in September and will run through Dec. 15. He has been encouraged to see a high percentage of customers convert into repeat business, including many members of the Drexel Dragons men’s basketball team.
“We invite more institutional partners to come to the table and make diverse procurement a priority for the benefit of our entire city,” Cadet said.