Afro Taco: The Food Truck Serving Newark Ghanaian and Mexican Inspired Cuisine
Chef Cliff Mills is no stranger to the kitchen. From the time he was a young boy he can recall how the intoxicating aromas from his mother’s cooking always had a way off gravitating him towards the kitchen.
While eagerly awaiting to taste his mother’s food, Chef Mills would often watch… sometimes mimicking his mother as she routinely prepared Ghanaian staple dishes. Once it was time to eat, Chef Mills remembers how the flavors of the food would transport him back to his native land of Ghana. This had a profound effect on Chef Mills and has been the driving force behind his love of food and culture.
2 years ago Chef Mills, founded and created, Afro Taco and has since become a mainstay on the Newark food scene.
Afro Taco serves up African and Mexican infused cuisine. From a glance at the Afro Taco menu you can easily spot the Mexican and African influences as Chef Mills combines Mexican cuisine staples such as burritos, tacos and quesadillas with African cuisine staples such as jollof rice, many African spices and flavors.
From 11 AM to 4 PM you can find the Afro Taco food truck on Bergen St. and 12th Ave. (by UMDNJ across from the IHOP), on Mulberry St., or by the Newark Public Library and Washington Park.
How can you spot the Afro Taco food truck?
The Afro Taco food truck is covered in yellow paint, with hints of green, red and black… reminiscent of the colors found on the Ghanaian flag. The truck is almost impossible not to recognize, just look for “a Ghanaian flag on wheels.”
When you do manage to locate the food truck be prepared to go back for seconds!
I had the opportunity to sit down with Ghana native Chef Mills to discuss his life in Newark, his business Afro Taco, his journey as a business owner, and much more!
What inspired your passion?
I personally have always loved being around the kitchen. As for my passion, that started from my mother and family. As early as I can remember, food has always brought me closer to my Ghanaian and West African cultures. A few mainstay dishes in my house growing up were Jollof (a pot dish of rice prepared with tomato sauce and served with meat or fish), Fufu (dough made from boiled and ground plantain or cassava), Kenkey (a staple dish similar to a sourdough dumpling), and so many other cuisine found back home in Ghana. Growing up in Newark, I am also inspired by all types of cuisine and cultures… tacos, ziti, pizza, and much more. My family, as well as the different foods and cultures, have shaped my passion.
When did you realize your product could become a business?
I’ve catered for over 15 years. One day I had brought some food back home from catering. I had a few things like salmon, shrimp, and rice. My wife not being wasteful, through all of the ingredients into a burrito and topped it with some special sauces. While she was eating it, I noticed the shock on her face. She then asked me over and over to taste the burrito. Honestly it don’t not sound appetizing so I was hesitant but I tried it anyway. From the moment I tasted it, I knew it was something special and unique.
Describe your day as a business owner?
My days are very hectic, so to lessen the chaos I follow a very strict schedule. I wake up early and I help my children get ready for school. Afterwards, I have to go pick up the Afro Taco food truck. Before I even start selling food from the truck, I use Instagram to get connected with my audience. I’ve learned that my audience is always eager to discover which location the truck will be for that specific day. Afro Taco is open from 11 AM - 4 PM. At 4 PM I pick up my kids and drop them off home to my wife. After, I head to my friends restaurant to prepare food for tomorrow’s service. Once finished I head back home to get a quick rest. I then start my night job, in which I help troubled youth. This cycle goes on all week. This is the life of an entrepreneur. It’s worth it for me, I’m living out my dream and satisfying a lot of people.
What challenges have you come across that you didn’t expect?
I have experience in the corporate world. I believe my experience really prepared me for whatever comes my way to deal with it… I’ve come to expect challenges. As for Afro Taco, I would say the biggest challenge is the quick success. Success is never a bad thing but with such high demand, there’s a lot of productivity needed to satisfy my customers. Also I’ve been receiving requests to bring Afro Taco to other cities and states. People want Afro Taco everywhere and all the time. As of now I’m working with a staff of 5.
What does your food have in common with Newark?
I’m Newark bred. This is the city I’ve called home for the entirety of my life. I’m also Ghanaian. Not only are both cultures apparent in my personal life, but also in the cuisine I make. My product is Newark because Newark is full of many flavors. Newark is home to many different cultures and people. My cuisine infuses flavors of differing cultures that most wouldn’t think mesh well together.
What do you think about the Makerhoods’ mission?
After hearing about the Makerhoods’ mission, I instantly thought it was a great idea. Any project that seeks to bring entrepreneurs together to create a thriving community has my approval. There will be so much to benefit from such as shared ideas, affordable living and work space, and doing everything inside Newark.
What is your business end goal?
My business end goal is for Afro Taco is to become a franchise. I want Afro Taco to be in every state. I don’t have a lot on my menu this is because I want the business to be productive and easy to manage.
What advice would you tell your younger self?
I would say to invest more in myself and go for my dreams!
Anthony Smith, Community Outreach Coordinator
After graduating college and returning back to my hometown of Newark, NJ I became a member of the Newark Makerhoods team. This transformative experience put me in touch with many local entrepreneurs who are all in different business stages, ranging from established to upstart. Newark is a thriving city for talented creators. I'm here to share their stories and launch their business to the everyday public’s eye.