PHOENIX — Walk into Patience Titcombe's home and you'll immediately notice the fragrant aroma of spices and herbs coming from her kitchen.
Those vibrant and wonderful scents are usually accompanied by the sounds of pots and pans, hot oil crackling, and the sizzling of rice (for her famous Joloff recipe).
"Sultry, bold, rich," she said of her food. "It holds a lot of history and life experiences."
Titcombe is the first woman to own a Nigerian-American food truck in the Valley. She's just beginning her journey with it, but already, has made a name for herself.
"Cooking was my way of showcasing that love for my culture," she said. "For the life experiences I had, and I was able to pour that into food."
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Titcombe came to the United States with her family in 1996. She remembers vividly going to school and being made fun of for the lunches she brought because they looked and smelled different. Those dishes are now loved by all who try them.
"It just warms my heart," she said. "It was tough coming over to the United States. I had to learn English as a second language, and now to see those same people embrace my culture, my food, it's heartwarming and I can't get enough."
In 2014, Titcombe moved to Flagstaff and really began missing the cultural foods she grew up with. So much so, she began researching and learning the recipes and trying them out.
"My grandma was very famous for her Buka's or small street eateries in Lagos," she said. "Everyone would come to her for their Amala, or her rice and stew which was super popular. Cooking actually came naturally for me because I've always been a foodie."
A few years later, Airbnb reached out to see if she had any skills she'd like to share with incoming guests. She figured she could showcase some of her dishes and signed up to host cooking classes in her kitchen for people traveling into the area looking for something to do. They were a hit.
"I started my Joloff rice classes right here in my kitchen," she said. "People traveling in from Seattle, Indiana, Bali, they would come take the class, learn about the culture and they learned a little about Nigerian food."
Nigerian food, she says, is flavorful, savory, and spicy that incorporates spices like curry, thyme, bay leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, and basil (or "scent leaf" as called in Nigeria).
"Food is love," she said. "Food is a way to connect with each other. It evokes an emotion that can't be described many times, but Nigerian food is for everyone."
After a few years, Titcombe, who worked in the medical field, says she wanted to do something bigger and really show people how delicious Nigerian food can be. That wish was filled last February while at a festival.
"I attended a food truck festival in Phoenix, and I loved this concept of you pull your car up and feed everyone," she said. "That day I said 'We're getting a food truck.' So, we launched the food truck on the 24th of February. That's when I knew I had found the gap and Phoenix loved this cultural experience."
She has since taken her food truck, Lasgidi Cafe, to different neighborhoods all over the area. She's been selling her food to hungry customers and showcasing Nigerian food with an American twist.
"Our motto is Nigerian food but for everyone," she said. "I want people to know it's relatable. It's tacos, rice, wings, it's the same ingredients we're used to but with an African flavor and it's yummy. It creates this sense of their first encounter with African food was memorable, pleasurable and it was yummy. They are family recipes, a few from my aunt who really made cooking an experience for me. A few others from my grandmother and husband too."
Her goal is to create memorable experiences with the food she serves, and she hopes people will not just enjoy it, but fall in love with it. And for those interested in following what they love, she has one piece of advice.
"I never thought I'd be doing food on a food truck on this scale," she said. "Really believe in yourself, trust yourself, trust the process, and be willing to work hard for it."
If you would like more information on where Lasgidi Cafe food truck will be, or about the dishes she serves (or if you'd like to take a cooking class from her) you can go here or call 602-800-9532.
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