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Omaha Magazine

Chef/Owner Nina Sodji

May 29, 2020 02:48PM ● By Tara Spencer

Nina Sodji
Chef and Owner
Okra African Grill

Opening a restaurant right before a pandemic hits would be enough to discourage anyone. But for Nina Sodji, 44, this isn’t the first time she’s encountered an overwhelming obstacle.

“I have owned an African market and restaurant before in Omaha, 10 years ago. I moved location and the recession of 2008 happened,” she said. “I filed for bankruptcy and went back to school.”

She received a culinary degree from Metropolitan Community College, and a bachelor’s in business management from Bellevue University. She worked as a dietary manager for the last four years while waiting for the opportunity to become a restaurant owner again.

Sodji said she discovered that African food in America wasn’t like other cuisines, such as Mexican, Chinese, or Indian, “even though we have a fusion of great flavor and variety of ingredients. So, my mission is to educate about people it.”

“My biggest reward is how I make people feel after they eat,” she said. “I love talking to people, I know a lot of them through family ties and just growing up with them and knowing about their lives.”

The coronavirus hit hard for Sodji’s restaurant. They opened on March 14, and two days later had to shut down. She had quit her other job just two weeks prior. “I have an ill parent at home and two children that depend on me,” she said. “I have employees who are looking at me for some answers…I don’t know.” 

This article was printed in the June 2020 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.