Master Business Coach Niquenya Collins spent 25 years coaching professionals to pursue their small business dreams before she finally took her own advice. A trained chef, avid food lover and self-proclaimed “chocoholic,” Niquenya aspired to open her own restaurant and launch a food brand.
At the start of 2020, Niquenya put her plan in motion, joining the Chicago food business incubator The Hatchery. She officially debuted Cocoa Chili Restaurant & Catering - an educational foodie experience serving up Afro-Caribbean-Soul fare. The menu incorporates a sweet and spicy flair - like Jamaican Jerk Chicken and her signature Cocoa Chili.
Shortly after opening, shelter-in-place began. Undeterred by the pandemic, Niquenya tapped family members to keep her new business alive. She now accepts orders on the Cocoa Chili website and arranges pick-up through The Hatchery carryout door. She also created Table Talk, an interactive online cooking class covering everything from how to stock your kitchen with staple foods to how to transform leftovers.
Next up is the debut of her product line - a Spicy Jerk Sauce & Marinade and a Cocoa Chili Spice Blend.
For Niquenya, soul food has taken on new significance throughout the past year. She is determined to keep cooking and nourishing her entrepreneurial dream, while striving to help people improve their lives in the process.
Cocoa Chili officially opened for pickup on February 1, 2021. Guests can grab the Afro-Caribbean-Soul fare at The Hatchery (3101 W Lake St). Current hours of operation at Monday through Friday, 4pm-8pm. Expanded hours and delivery by DoorDash will be coming soon. Diners can order Collins' signature dishes including:
- Senegalese Poulet Yassa - tender chicken breasts stewed in sweet onions and traditional Senegalese seasonings
- Jamaican Jerk Chicken - one-quarter chicken marinated in authentic spicy jerk sauce and grilled to smoky perfection, coconut rice and peas, and steamed cabbage
- Curry Chicken - aromatic chicken quarters smothered in creamy coconut curry sauce, coconut rice and peas, and greens
- Puerto Rican Rice - a twist on arroz con gandules parboiled with annatto, cilantro, sofrito, and black olives. Served with garden salad and fried plantain
- Cocoa Chili - black bean chili con carne enriched with the signature Cocoa Chili Spice Blend