Sohaila’s Kitchen has been a lifelong dream of Amna Humayon’s mother. Amna is the face of the company, while her mother, Sohaila Humayon, goes behind the scenes to concoct homemade, authentic dishes from her native Pakistan. In the 1970s, the Humayons migrated from Pakistan to San Francisco, where they had Amna and her siblings. The Humayons have been living in Lenexa for the past eight years. Amna knows how much this dream means to her mother; sharing their journey is as much a part of their business as the menu — which includes a buttered chicken bowl, biryani, samosas, curry dishes and lentil soup, to name a few. Sohaila’s Kitchen started as a pop-up restaurant in the Lenexa Public Market in spring 2018. The Humayons just celebrated their first anniversary as a permanent installation of the market in July.
My mom is the most deserving person I know.
She has been through so much. She lived most of her life away from her family in boarding school. She learned how to cook in boarding school. She is a breast cancer survivor, and cooking has been her savior. She cooked through her battle with breast cancer.
And I wanted to do something for her. I wanted to open up a restaurant for her and that’s exactly what I did.
You know, some people say that your parents are supposed to do everything for you. In my family, our mentality is our parents have done so much for us and at this age — I’m in my 20s now — I want to do something for my parents. I want to give back to them now.
There’s one particular moment I remember. She was diagnosed with breast cancer about six years ago, and she had the toughest battle and it was so hard on her, but she said one thing to me, she said, are you guys doing OK? And I said, what do you mean? Are we doing OK? We’re fine. We’re worried about you. And she said, I feel guilty that I’m going through this and I’m putting you guys through this. It’s always stood out to me because her entire life has been dedicated to me and my siblings and my dad and she has done everything she can to provide us a good life.
And that’s why I wanted to do this for her. I want to give her her dream.
It’s amazing because she finally has this mainstream space where she can share her talent. And although it came at a really later age in her life, it’s still happening and that’s what counts. She’s so happy. I don’t know anyone her age who works as hard as she does. She’s turning 63. She’s really proud of her age. And the reason why is because her mom, dad and sister all passed away at 62, and we opened this when she turned 62 and it’s a huge deal.
I think, honestly, the people who benefit the most from our business is the community. We brought Pakistani food to a city that didn’t know Pakistani food before we came in. We are telling people about our culture and our religion through food.
And I always tell people that for me, growing up my entire life, even before Sohaila’s Kitchen existed, food was always a way for my family to connect and to share who we are. And now that we can do that with the masses, it’s the most amazing thing.
I mean people come up to our stall and they have never even heard of Pakistan before. And how amazing is it for us to be in a position to tell them about us and you know, and we’re here in the political climate that we’re in right now, in today’s day, we’re in a position where we can break down these stereotypes through food.