Enjoying a bowl of duck curry accented with bright herbs, former Sounders FC team captain and brand ambassador Brad Evans looked up from his dish and asked the chef, “What were you doing before this and why were you doing anything else?” 

The chef, Theary Ngeth is the proud owner of Theary Cambodian Foods. She’s one of eight immigrant women who operate their restaurant and catering businesses at Spice Bridge in Tukwila. 

Ngeth answers, “Actually, the story is, I never liked cooking. It takes a lot of work.” 

She continued, explaining that when she moved with her parents to the United States, they started a Cambodian senior program, feeding Cambodian elders in her community. Kept busy with their business, Ngeth said she was upset as a teenager that her parents couldn’t spend more of their time with her and grew to resent cooking. Yet, in her later years, she found herself falling into their footsteps time and time again. Serendipitously, her path collided with another Spice Bridge chef who was captivated by her stellar chili oil — and the rest has been history. 

Evans was delighted with her story and just as delighted with the food, “I get curry a lot, and this is a really, really good curry,” he said. 

Spice Bridge is an extraordinary community food destination in Tukwila. The unique global food hall was opened in 2020 by Global to Local’s Food Innovation Network as part of an initiative to support women of color and immigrant business owners in South King County.

Sampling Argentinian cuisine next, Evans munched away on mini versions of Monica Di Bartolomeo’s empanadas with her homemade chimichurri sauce. Di Bartolomeo handcrafts her empanadas in a wide variety of flavors including beef, chicken, four cheese and ham, and more. 

Evans said the food from her restaurant, Seatango, transported him back to a trip he took to Argentina with the Sounders in 2009, “This was the kind of stuff we sought out. I always know I’m going to get some serious flavor and it feels like a home cooked meal.”

Empanadas from Seatango

Food from across the globe in The Gambia and Senegal arrived next. Adama Jammeh served some choice dishes on the menu at the Spice Bridge restaurant she co-owns, Afella Jollof Catering

“I work at a bank, but this is my passion,” she said. “I’m following this dream. Fortunately, we were exposed to the Food Innovation Network, which was super beneficial. In our community, we don’t have resources that would support our business. We used to cater for events. Then, we started at farmers markets and Pike Place, it was awesome. And now Spice Bridge, it’s like a dream come true, it happened so fast.”

As a ‘Super Roll’ from WUHA Ethiopian-American Cuisine was brought to the table wrapped in steaming injera, Evans joked, “I’m going to have to take a nap after this.” 

‘Super Roll’ from WUHA Ethiopian Cuisine

WUHA owner Liyu Yirdaw said the specialty item was created just for the Sounders FC visit and isn’t on the menu — yet. Yirdaw and the other business owners received some Sounders FC swag, and she laughed, “I’m going to show it off!”

When she’s not working at her food stall at Spice Bridge, Yirdaw is a nurse, so she says it’s her prerogative to make the food a little healthier. She’s also taken creative liberties with traditional Ethiopian recipes to make the food easier for one person to eat by themself, fast-casual style.

Describing her experience with the other women at Spice Bridge, she said, “It means a lot. It’s like my other family. We take care of each other, not only here but outside of work. We are like sisters. Because we understand each other and we are all from another place so we understand the hardships and work together as a team.” 

Brad Evans signs Adama Jammeh’s jersey

After sampling food from the four restaurant stalls and finishing with some desserts, Evans concluded, “I was expecting a lot of flavor and I was not disappointed.” 

“The mission that’s behind this place is great,” he continued. “It’s got to be really inspiring for them and it’s really inspiring for me, too. I’ve never seen anything like this before and it’s really cool … You can walk in and say, ‘What is this dish all about?’ and the actual person who has created it, maybe this recipe has been passed down for generations. You’re getting knowledge behind the food. You know, why they made it, why it means so much to them. That just makes you feel better.” 

Thanks to Sounders FC for joining Intentionalist at Spice Bridge to #SupportHer and celebrate International Women’s Day as part of our initiative to amplify, recommend, and support women-owned businesses this Women’s History Month. 

By Haley Witt

Denver, CO

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