Putting Down Roots: MIZIZI by Street Chef Shaw
Photo Courtesy of Carbon Stories & Erik Lauchié


From free plates outside his house to a brick & mortar eatery, food truck and catering business, Street Chef Shaw has had an eventful four years.

Kirel Shaw has been cooking in the restaurant industry for 15 years now. He says it wasn’t necessarily the plan out of high school, but he quickly fell in love with the experience after graduating. He’s worked everywhere from Amore Trattoria under Chef Jenna Arcidiacono to HopCat and Logan’s Roadhouse.

So when COVID hit in 2020, naturally, a lot of his friends and family were in the restaurant industry and lost their jobs. He worked to make free plates of food for people who needed it and served it out of his house on the corner of an intersection. The final meal was tacos, which people especially seemed to love, and that’s when it clicked to turn this into some sort of a food business.

So, Street Chef Shaw was born, starting in incubator kitchens at the Downtown Market and Bee Side Kitchen.

“The original goal was to have the food truck in five years,” Shaw said. “We got it in two, and we’ve been moving ever since.”

The food truck and catering business could be found at big events, outside of Mulligan’s on Tuesdays (where you can still find it, run by chef Brandon Muscato), on Mondays at City Built Brewing—the list goes on. As the fanbase grew, customers hoped to someday see Street Chef Shaw’s unique brand of African/Latin fusion food more consistently.

When Rinaldi’s on Plainfield sadly shuttered in 2023, the time was right. Shaw had grown up near Creston, attending Northview High School, and this was the perfect opportunity to return to the community.

So, MIZIZI was born. Meaning “roots” in Swahili, the brick & mortar location’s name speaks to a return to Shaw’s roots in Creston, as well as his family’s roots that play a large part in the food itself.

“We’re an African fusion restaurant. Right now, we’re focused on Latin America and East Africa—my family descends from the East African region, and my children’s mother, her family descended from Mexico, so I feel like it was something I wanted to do to give to them, something to represent their legacy. That’s where our dream started and where it’s going to continue moving.”

It’s this unique and delicious food, of course, that's really given Street Chef Shaw the following. It’s a slight twist on classics like tacos, burritos, and ramen that really makes use of contrasting flavors and textures while still being entirely approachable (and, dare I say, craveable).

The tacos, for instance, are fried in house-made Swahili chili oil, and freshened up with some green cabbage with gives a nice refreshing crunch. The Birria Burrito is a very popular menu item, dipped in consumme, stuffed with coconut curry rice, green chili frijoles de olla, melty white cheese, fresh chopped cabbage, red onion, and cilantro.

You might start with the tacos to stick to the familiar, but you’ll quickly find yourself moving down the menu to dishes like the East African Chappatis, a flatbread wrap stuffed with your choice of protein and kachumbari—a bright and flavorful salad of chopped onions, tomatoes and chili peppers. Or go for Shaw’s personal favorite, the Coconut-Curry Pilau Bowl, which also has protein and kachumbari, plus house-roasted sweet & spicy tree nuts, pomegranate roasted garlic aioli, and a bed of pilau/rice.

Whatever you order, you get to choose your protein: shredded chicken tikka, poussin pulled pork, mishkaki beef, roasted goat (sourced from the local Shamrock Meats), or an amazing cactus red pepper hash for vegetarians.

That’s all not to mention the tortilla chips, which are cut, fried and seasoned in-house, along with the salsa and hot sauce made from scratch. With all the different combinations possible, the menu totals out to nearly 60 different items, many of which are gluten-free or vegan.

“It’s African food with a twist that tells a story from where we came from to where we are now.”

While the space is relatively small at the moment, the wait time for food is a few minutes at most, in part thanks to Shaw and Muscato’s years of experience running the food truck. No online or call-ahead ordering is needed, trust me.

Looking ahead, Shaw is excited to try out some new dishes now that they’ve established MIZIZI, and to keep getting to know the neighborhood. Down the line, they’d love to upgrade to a full-service, upscale, African cuisine restaurant—for now, the truck, takeout spot and catering business are enough to handle.

While the pandemic hit many businesses hard, it essentially led to Street Chef Shaw, which is one big silver lining for us all.

“A lot of people I talked to, everyone’s like ‘You’re crazy for trying to start a business right now,’” Shaw said. “But we’re always gonna have to eat, right? So, I thought, hopefully, I can make good food.”

And he sure has.

MIZIZI by Street Chef Shaw

1539 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids