YouTube star brings a taste of East Africa to Ipswich

Hellen Schroeder standing in her micro shop wearing African print clothing

Hellen Schroeder has recently launched East African food business, Zachar's Kitchen, in one of Ipswich's micro shops - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Move over chilli con carne, jacket potatoes and pizza. One Ipswich entrepreneur is spicing up the town centre with her new East African cuisine business. 

YouTube star Hellen Schroeder is the woman behind Zachar’s Kitchen, a Kenyan food business which opened four weeks ago in one of Ipswich's micro shop pods. 

Bringing East African dishes such as Pilau, Ugali and a Kenyan version of the Chapati to Ipswich, Hellen hopes to broaden the horizons of local people. 

Hellen smiling in the kitchen as she serves up some Kenyan food

Hellen serves up delicious East African cuisine in pod 12 of the micro shops - Credit: Charlotte Bond

But when Hellen took a break from her nursing course and started her YouTube channel of the same name during lockdown, she couldn’t have imagined it would turn into a fully-fledged food business.  

She said: “I was doing nursing for two years and then before I went into my third year, the pandemic hit. I decided to take a year break to look after my family.  

“During the lockdown I started cooking and making smoothies and I turned it into a YouTube channel.  

“I love cooking; it’s my passion and I find it so therapeutic, but I never thought I would open a food place to be honest.” 

Hellen and her 17-year-old daughter, Charlotte

Hellen's 17-year-old daughter, Charlotte, often helps out - Credit: Charlotte Bond

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Hellen explained that she initially wanted to set up a smoothie and juice business, but found one already existed within the micro shops. So instead, she took a risk to bring diverse cuisine to Ipswich.  

She said: “For me I thought it was a big risk because I was thinking ‘who’s going to eat Kenyan food’- many people don’t know it.  

"Then I thought maybe I can just do something people are familiar with like jacket potatoes and pizza. But another micro shop business owner told me to sell Kenyan food and I thought this was a good idea. 

An East African dish of beans and sauce

The jacket potato is nowhere in sight - Credit: Charlotte Bond

"The first day went really well. I had so many customers, people were willing to try Kenyan food, and I got a lot of good feedback.

"People were saying there’s nothing like this around and how nice it is to have something different."  

Originally from Nairobi, Hellen has come from a line of female entrepreneurs with both her mother and grandmother running businesses.

She hopes to continue following in their footsteps and has dreams of one day owning a small Kenyan restaurant in Ipswich and branching out into other Suffolk towns.