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Growing up, Mame Fatima Ndiaye’s mother worked long hours during the week. However, she still made sure to cook several meals every Sunday to ensure her kids weren’t relying on “outside food” — such as fast food and takeout meals — every weeknight.
“For her, it was important for us to still have that home-cooked meal experience,” Ndiaye said.
Ndiaye, a senior at Syracuse University studying public relations and the founder and owner of Made by Mame, didn’t cook much growing up. She said her culinary path started due to a dissatisfaction with SU’s existing dining hall options, which became repetitive for her after a while.
To combat that distaste, Ndiaye would often visit a childhood friend, who also attended SU and was one year older than her, at her South Campus apartment. Ndiaye said she would go there whenever her friend cooked because of her deep appreciation for the value of a home-cooked meal. She then took the reins for herself.
“Sophomore year’s really when I got into cooking, so like if I didn’t know how to cook something I would FaceTime my mom and she would talk me through it,” Ndiaye said. “Or if she wasn’t available, YouTube, TikTok, all that is at our hands, so that’s when I really started utilizing my resources.”
The senior’s dishes are made using a traditional Senegalese spice base, which reflects Ndiaye’s family culture. The base usually includes garlic, peppers, Jumbo all-purpose-seasoning and black pepper.
Ndiaye, who normally goes by Fatima, wanted to make sure her brand name shone a light on her Senegalese heritage in the same way her food does, which is why she settled on “Made by Mame.”
Her commitment to her heritage allowed Ndiaye to share dishes she grew up enjoying with
her friends, including Cristy Sanchez, an SU senior studying accounting and Ndiaye’s soror. Sanchez believes Ndiaye thoroughly enjoys the service associated with cooking.
“Fatima is a very genuine person. So I feel like just the fact that she’s able to open up something to her friends and her being able to cater to us is what supersedes the actual cooking,” Sanchez said.
In 2019, Ndiaye took part in the African Student Union’s Jollof Wars, a head-to-head competition based on a historical point of contention for West African nations: Which country makes the best Jollof rice? She ended up winning first place.
“That really started making people tell me ‘Oh, you should start cooking (and selling plates),’” Ndiaye said.
Although COVID-19 initially delayed her plans to go through with this, Ndiaye was able to make that a reality this semester. She already had a logo put together from a previous short-lived skincare venture, so she reused it and got to work.
Sanchez said that their friend group has been focused on ending their time on campus “with a bang” since it’s their senior year, and she’s excited to see Ndiaye’s wishes and desires finally come to fruition.
“I’m just happy that other people are able to see how talented she is (in) the kitchen and I just hope that, you know, that word-of-mouth continues to get around and that she’s able to … extend her business , and the profit only continues to grow,” Sanchez added.
SU students can fill out a Google form in the Instagram page’s bio any time during the week and make a deposit to confirm their order. Pick up for orders occurs each Saturday.
SU senior Gustavo Eumana said he’s visited Ndiaye when she’s cooked at her apartment before, and he was happy to support her business. Last week, he ordered stuffed chicken with mashed potatoes from Made by Mame, and he said he enjoyed the flavor and authenticity of the meal.
“Her cooking reminds me a lot (of) my mom’s cooking. (Ndiaye’s) from Harlem and I cop food from Harlem (a lot), so it reminds me of Harlem food … like it tastes like someone from the city made it,” Eumana said.
This week, the featured meal is tacos; Customers can choose between chicken ($12), ground turkey ($12) or steak ($15) for their choice of meat. They can also add any amount of toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, onions or radish for free. Sour cream, salsa verde or guacamole — which costs an extra $2 — is available on the side.
Ndiaye said this week’s menu has been in high demand from friends and potential customers for a while. Eumana said he’ll probably order another plate this week, and Sanchez said that Ndiaye’s tacos are one of her favorites. She referred to their friend group as “taco fiends.”
Sanchez said it’s important for those interested in Made by Mame’s menu to know that they’re getting the whole package by supporting Ndiaye’s business.
“Potential customers are getting a bang for their buck (because) Fatima’s very generous with her portions. And I feel like it’s always important to just buy from someone who’s eager to do the service that they’re offering,” Sanchez said. “For her it’s not about the money. It’s not about you know, the publicity. It’s because she totally wants to do it.”
While staying true to her heritage is important to her, Ndiaye wants it to be clear that she’s willing to take risks and branch out to more than just Senegalese and American dishes.
“I’m gonna try a lot of different stuff… it’s not going to be centered around one region. I’m going to be trying stuff from all over the world. And I just want people to try stuff with me.”
Published on February 16, 2022 at 11:10 pm
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