Muskegon aims to diversify lakeshore food scene

Lakisha Harris is a chef, offering soul food at locations around the Muskegon area. Her specialty is turkey knuckles.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Lakisha Harris believes you have to serve in order to be a leader. 

Her way of doing that is by serving up great food for her community. 

“I started to take the soul food experiences to places where there was none,” said Harris. 

She began making soul food out of a Muskegon-area bar. Her specialty was turkey knuckles, a dish she calls authentically Muskegon. She prepares it the same way her grandparents did. 

“When I open my restaurant, it was the home of the turkey knuckle,” said Harris. “And believe it or not, people were coming from Arizona, Philadelphia, Virginia, North Carolina, Washington, DC, Florida to try knuckles. And I’m like, okay, we’re onto something.”

Now, Harris offers her soul food at Boom Town Market. She has plans to partner with Kitchen 242 and the Muskegon Farmers Market. She is also in the process of opening an upscale soul food restaurant downtown, and a food truck that brings access to fresh produce. 

Her goal is to diversify the food options of Muskegon. 

“Unfortunately, there’s a group that lives on this side of town, a group that lives on this side of town, and we try to meet in the middle,” said Harris. “So I’m like, oh, no, I’m not just waiting for you to come to the middle. I’m going to bring it to you. And I’m going to make my food approachable. Because when you accept our food, you accept my culture.”

Thursday, we met up with Harris at Bethany Christian Reformed Church, where she was making 500 chicken and waffles and 500 fried chicken cupcakes. She was then bringing them to an event with Muskegon Public Schools, teaching the students about soul food. She worked with Katyia Taylor, owner of Kaytia’s Sweet Creations, LLC.

“African American chefs do not use measuring cups, we do not follow recipes,” said Harris. “You literally tap into your ancestors. You tap into your roots.”

One thing is for certain: Her turkey knuckles will be part of any future food venture she does.

“There’s nowhere I’m going to go that turkey knuckles don’t go,” said Harris. 

As she works toward making the area more diverse in its food options, Harris also is a positive force in her community. 

“I want to do all of this in the community, not because this is what I received from the community, but I feel like this is what it’s missing, right?” said Harris. “And I said, okay, the change that I want to see in the community is on the inside of me.”

RELATED VIDEO: Culinary students in Muskegon learn about soul food

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