BREMERTON — Ciyona Fowler-Taylor hopes her restaurant will “bring a different feel to the community on Callow Avenue.” She hopes it will bring “the sense of comfort and home” when the restaurant officially opens Sat. July 8.
Ciyona’s Cuisine De L’âme is a creole restaurant that Fowler-Taylor is opening after years of going from restaurant to restaurant. She said that the restaurants she’s worked in in the past haven’t made her “feel like I was at home or comfortable.”
“I decided that the only way I would work in another restaurant is if I could open my own,” Fowler-Taylor said.
So she’s doing just that: opening her own restaurant at 308 N. Callow Ave., Bremerton.
“Cooking is a big passion of mine,” Fowler-Taylor said. “It makes me happy when I cook. I’ve learned that food tastes better when it’s cooked with love … I tell my children that all the time.”
A love for cooking is something Fowler-Taylor grew up having, passed down through her mother and grandmother.
“I would sit on the counter to cook with my grandmother, or my mother would teach me, from the littlest things to the biggest,” she said. “Food is a way for my family to gather together. That’s the time … we would see family from everywhere.”
Fowler-Taylor said the decision to open her own restaurant really solidified after leaving her last place of employment. She and her children spent the subsequent months living with her mother before ultimately finding a place in which she could open her own restaurant.
“I went three months without a job, without anything, and I stayed with my mom during that time, and just saved whatever pennies I could and put them all together,” Fowler-Taylor said.
During that time, she said she sold lunches to some people she knew who worked in the shipyard “just to get by and to help my children.”
Now that she’s opening her own restaurant, she plans to incorporate that family feel she equates so closely with cooking.
“I have pictures of my family on one side, and I plan to add pictures of my customers, of my guests, on the other side, to make them a part of my family,” Fowler-Taylor said.
Her menu will be mostly fixed, creole cuisine, but she said she’s open to taking “special requests” from her guests. She said some will be limited-time only, but it might be added to the menu if “it’s something everyone loves.”
“I want to make sure my guests are a part of us,” Fowler-Taylor said.
She chose to focus on creole cuisine because it’s something she grew up knowing; her grandmother is creole, she said.
“She’s a native of Louisiana,” Fowler-Taylor said. “She brought us here a long time ago, and we continued our family here, but all we’ve ever known is creole food.”
As such, her signature dish is her grandmother’s gumbo.
“It is something that has been passed down from my grandmother to me,” Fowler-Taylor said, “and I’m very sure it’s been passed down from my great-grandmother to my grandmother.
“I think no matter how you feel and what time of year it is, you have to have a bowl of gumbo.”
Ciyona’s Cuisine De L’âme will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and closed Sundays and Mondays, with the exception of Sunday, July 9. For the grand opening weekend, Fowler-Taylor said guests are welcome that Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We will be having cupcakes and samples for the community so everyone can come in and sample the food [and] take pictures so they can go on our wall,” Fowler-Taylor said.
And if the response to the news of her opening is anything to go by, lots of people will probably be there.
Fowler-Taylor said the community support has been “amazing.”
“My idea … has become so big for the community, it makes me feel really good. It warms my heart so much to know that the community is so excited.
“It feels really good to know that I have come from the point of being homeless to where people are excited to hear what I’m doing.”
Getting to the opening of her restaurant has been a long journey, but she’s happy to have made it this far.
“I’ve done everything myself with my own bare hands, and the help of my children and a little financial help from my mother,” Fowler-Taylor said.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I think it’s amazing that my daughters — they’re 12 and 13 — have gotten to see the process of going from being homeless to having people extremely excited to see you and get to know who you are. And to know you’re going to change the community, even if it’s just a slight bit.
“It feels really good.”
Ciyona’s Cuisine De L’âme opens 11 a.m. July 8 at 308 N. Callow Ave., Bremerton. To learn more, visit facebook.com/kitchenofthesoul.
— Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at email@example.com.