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Taste of the world: Black Orchid Catering brings African, Asian flavors to Green Bay

Fatima and Aisha Umar. Photo supplied.

Two sisters bring a fresh taste of Asian and African food to Green Bay, inspired by their upbringing, culture and world travels.

Aisha and Fatima Umar saw a gap in Green Bay’s food offerings, so they decided to start The Black Orchid Catering. The catering company provides a depth of offerings, with a heightened focus on the Umars’ Nigerian heritage and time spent in Malaysia, and food inspired by their travels around the world. They opened The Black Orchid in May 2023 with Green Bay Mayor Eric Genrich at its commercial kitchen.

The sisters were born in Madison but shortly moved to Nigeria, and later, Malaysia, where they grew up. In 2008, 20 years after moving from Wisconsin, Aisha and Fatima moved to Green Bay. The two pursued education, with Aisha wanting to get into gynecology and Fatima to be an English teacher, but the sisters struggled to find fulfillment in their ventures.

“She worked at a clinic for a bit, and she didn’t feel fulfilled,” Fatima said about her sister. “We were tired of utilizing all our energy because we would be working up north in Door County for about six months straight.”

The Umar sisters would drive from Green Bay to Door County every day, about an hour and a half drive each way. They would leave at 8 a.m. and make it back around 2 a.m. and repeat the process for six months straight until the two became too tired to continue the trip.

After those strenuous six months, they wanted to do something for themselves instead.

“We were tired,” Aisha said. “Then the struggle was finding the right business to pursue. Then my sister Fatima was like, ‘Well you’re a very good cook. Why don’t we just try that and see?’”

Aisha was hesitant to try it. She always cooked for her family and had a passion for it. She began cooking as a child because she was the oldest daughter – the one who cooks for the whole family in Nigerian culture. But doing so on a platform where she could receive criticism made her afraid to give it a chance.

She was afraid that Green Bay, being a predominately white city, wouldn’t enjoy the food. Those worries quickly faded quickly after the Umar sisters opened their business. The food was well received by the community who relished the chance to try new foods.

“The reason we started with African-Asian fusion was because there was a need in our community. We didn’t have any African restaurants, that’s for sure, especially when we started,” Aisha said.

The menu is unique at The Black Orchid. The two take experiences from their upbringing in Wisconsin, Nigeria, Malaysia and years of traveling the world together.

The menu features African staples like Jollof Rice, Singapore fried noodles and The Black Orchid chicken along with items featured from their world travels. The menu also takes inspiration from their Wisconsin upbringing. African and Asian dishes incorporate cheese despite neither culture using cheese very often in dishes.

“People who come to us will have to be risk takers and they have to be curious,” Aisha said. “Whenever we speak to the clients, we ask them what their spice level is, and we can obviously accommodate, so they think it’s spicy. But once they try it, then they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s just flavorful.’”

The Umar sisters are eyeing expansion of their business with the continued success and acceptance by the community. The two want to expand to start a food truck or their own brick and mortar location with a tasting menu soon.

Photo courtesy Black Orchid Catering.