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Community Highlights: Meet Esra England of KC Cajun

Today we’d like to introduce you to Esra England. 

Hi Esra, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I relocated from Jackson, MS. to Kansas City in 2012 for a clinical laboratory position with a local hospital. After experiencing some industry “burnout”, I decided to pursue my cooking passion and enrolled into some introductory courses at The Culinary Center of Kansas City in 2016 and shortly after started catering for friends and family. Moving from the southern Bayou, I noticed a major shortage of local eateries offering “authentic” southern Louisiana cuisine (such as Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etouffee, etc.) so I decided that the local food truck route was the most cost-efficient way start a food service business. 

After researching the KC food truck scene for about a year, I decided to visit a relative in Minneapolis who operated a food truck to shadow her and see what exactly it took. During that trip, she showed me a truck that was for sale for $6,500. I decided that moment that I would fly back the next weekend to purchase the truck and ultimately start my food business focused on authentic southern Louisiana bayou food and tradition. In 2017 KC Cajun was launched after obtaining an SBA loan with Alt-Cap, and suddenly my dream was now a reality!!! 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
For the most part, it has all been pretty positive, there is basically before COVID and after COVID lol. 

Pre-COVID we were making exponential growth with sales and exposure to the point that it was hard to keep up with the demand in business. We experienced a 191% increase in business with our first year with the truck, so at the end of 2019 we started making plans to expand into a brick-and-mortar location in East KC, Then in March (Season start) of 2020, we were officially in city lockdown which caused us to close for 3 weeks to capitalize on the mobile aspect of our business. We focused on 3rd party delivery systems, as well as QR codes and online ordering to minimize gatherings at the window and wait times. 

After signing a lease on the brick and mortar in November of 2020 we planned on being able to have the restaurant open by February of 2021 but unfortunately, COVID caused me to lose up to 75% of my staff by September due to health concerns, or child care demands that prevented them to work. We ironically ended 2020 with our first year of profits but our overhead had drastically increased trying to operate the truck and work on the B&M (Unfortunately profiting in 2020 disqualified us for most of the 2021 funding for restaurants). After a long hard winter, we weren’t able to make much progress on the construction due to supply chain issues, as well as the record-setting cold in February. Then we received the death blow in March when we were leaving our first event of the new 2020 season when our motor went out on the truck costing over 15K in repairs forcing me to return to work in the hospital full time to fund the company to prevent us from closing. We also were blessed to receive two grants from Generating Income For Tomorrow (25K) and DoorDash (5K) that also kept us in business. After getting the truck repaired and back out at the end of June, we will back on track at the end of the year to hopefully have a grand opening for the restaurant by Mardi Gras of 2022!! 

We’ve been impressed with KC Cajun LLC, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We are KC’s voted best Cajun truck in the KC Metro (2018 Pitch Best of KC- Cajun Food #3 Overall) offering some of the best Cajun food this side of the Mississippi River. We come from the Southern Bayou raised on recipes mastered by generations of Creole chefs and cooks. We offer our best dishes to the KC Midwest foodie scene with roots deep in the urban community developing relationships with community partners and customers. 

We value our customer’s overall experience (music, art, food, etc.) when you come to the KC Cajun food truck, you are guaranteed to get wonderful food as well as experience some of the great Jazz, and culture of the New Orleans city. We want our customer to get more out of a dining experience at our truck, we want you to feel as though you are actually at the Mardi Gras parade with a warm cup of Gumbo and a beignet for dessert. 

We are most proud of the quality of our dishes and the great southern customer services that will put you in the mind of visiting one of your relatives. We pride ourselves in offering a variety of dishes that you can only get at our truck (such KC Fries, Alligator Corndog, Cajun Deluxe Pasta) as well as bringing you a little taste of the French Quarters with the sounds, smells, and tastes of the Louisiana bayou. 

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
We are looking to get our brick-and-mortar location fully operational and functional over the next 1-2 years then look into getting another mobile dessert truck or trailer. Our 10-year plan is to purchase a building in East Kansas City to renovate into an event space and education center for our community. 

We will continue to monitor the restaurant trends to see if the industry as a whole is able to return to pre-pandemic levels, but my background in the medical field is leading me to believe that as global temperatures continue to rise developed countries will began to see an even greater increase in diseases and famine over the next 20 years as we are seeing drastic changes right before our eyes. 

We are currently looking into creating a self-sustainable aquaponics systems on the B&M property with the help of our community peer over at Nile Valley Aquaponics (http://nilevalleyaquaponics.com/) and focus more on self-farming and sustainability as the trend continue. 

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Haze Media

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