“If it’s in your heart and soul then just take the leap. It’s not always easy but it is possible” – Destinee Sargent

Things were not going exactly according to plan for Destinee Sargent when her husband boldly proclaimed, “Babe, we’re gonna start a barbeque business!”

Destinee, a warm, bubbly woman who holds a master’s degree in public administration, had recently lost her job as a social worker and her husband Kemmie, a landscaper by trade, had hoped to start a new career, but a prior conviction had impeded his progress.  Then a serious motorcycle accident catastrophically affected his health and he had to undergo a series of operations leaving him partially disabled.

With four active children needing new school clothes, participating in pay for play sports and the bills mounting up, Destinee was growing depressed. “I really tried but I couldn’t find a job to save my life.” Times were tough but this Muskegon native never lost her faith. She was sure that God had something in store for them but was hoping that it arrived sooner rather than later.  That’s when her husband came up with his inspired course of action.  Destinee, however, wasn’t so sure. “I said no.” She laughs, remembering the moment “But then my husband went out and purchased the meat so I had no choice.”

We'll Try it for a Week...

She agreed to try it for a week. They made a menu based on sale items in their local grocery store, posted the location on Facebook and to their delight and surprise immediately sold out by 4:30 pm that same day. Encouraged, they tried it again in the following weeks, each time immediately selling out and before they knew it, Kuntry Cookin was born and they were officially in business.

At that point, Destinee didn’t have all the business acumen needed but she definitely knew how to cook. Born into a family of talented chefs, the first dish Destinee ever made was fried green tomatoes when she was only four years old. And she’s been cooking up a storm ever since.

She describes her style of cooking as Haberdashery because they do a little bit of everything. “We have an eclectic menu and serve Jamaican, Creole, Soul food, crayfish boils, Barbeque and more”. A hands-down crowd favorite is her shrimp and grits, “I’m now known as the Shrimp and Grits Lady in Muskegon but I love it!” she smiles, “I feel we have a ministry through food because a good meal can nourish mind, body and soul.”

Creative Comfort Food That's Good for the Soul

Kuntry Cookin specializes in bringing flavorful food to West Michigan for a reasonable price. Most dinners average between $10-$16 and unique lighter fare such as; soul food egg rolls, sandwiches and soups cost between $4 and $7.

They are constantly rotating their menu to add spice and variety. Destinee and Kemmie pride themselves on creating delicious, comforting and creative dishes that allow customers to try something new. Barbeque dinners feature generous portions of smoked meats, nestled next to chunks of fresh corn or homemade rolls and colorful vegetables glistening in butter.

Other specialties include;

  • Fried chicken and red velvet waffles
  • Spaghetti with red sauce from scratch
  • Jamaican meat pies filled with savory beef spiced with curry and ginger.

Popular desserts range from a mouth-watering pecan pie to her famous strawberry ice cream crunch cake. She even makes her own butter.

Fresh, Local Ingredients

The Sargents are also thoughtful about using only fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. They have their own herb and vegetable garden and supplement other items from local meat vendors and The Muskegon Farmers Market. Grateful that the community has rallied around them, the Sargents were determined to expand Kuntry Cookin to include a food truck and that’s where GROW became involved. 

The GROW Connection. It's in the Family

For Destinee, working with GROW is actually a family affair. Her mother is a successful GROW alumni; they helped her open a beauty shop in downtown Grand Rapids decades ago. Her mother suggested Destinee get in touch with GROW and see what they had to offer. But before she even had the chance, Karen Benson, GROW’s Business Development Officer, reached out to her and offered support.

“In the beginning, completing all the necessary paperwork and learning what had to be done to create a viable business was seriously overwhelming, I thought I could just cook food for people and sell it, but nope, it’s not that easy!” she exclaimed. Thankfully GROW was able to help her understand the process and offer mentorship, additional courses and tools to support her business and make sure she succeeded. “They don’t make you feel stupid about what you don’t know. They made me feel comfortable about what I still needed to learn”.

And that support continues today as Destinee and her husband work with GROW to achieve their dream of having a food truck by the Summer of 2019, as well as a brick and mortar prep kitchen.

Destinee believes in what GROW has to offer and refers people to them all the time, “GROW is a great source of information and has a wealth of services to benefit current and up and coming business owners. Since they have been in Muskegon they have really been in the community and are helping people to be independent and make their dreams come true”.

Access to Capital through GROW's Loan Program

GROW also offers access to capital for those who might not qualify for a traditional bank loan as well as other resources and workshops such as Food Foundations: A training series for food business essentials.  “They even help with social media and branding” states Destinee, “And good advice like that is worth more than money”.

For Destinee, her business was a true leap of faith but if she can do it, she knows others can as well. Her advice for other aspiring business owners? “If it’s in your heart and soul then just take the leap. It’s not always easy but it is possible” 

Future Plans, Serving the Community

Destinee continues to dream big and would love to give back to the community by having several food trucks around the city which employ previously incarcerated people, giving them a second chance at life.  “Every bit of this has been a faith walk and the doors God has opened for us, we humbly walked through. The opportunity to serve my community in this capacity is nothing short of a blessing. We get to see frowns turn to smiles with one bite of food”.

Currently, Kuntry Cookin does pop-ups at Racquets Bar & Grill and Kitchen 242 in Muskegon. For more information on where Kuntry Cookin will be serving up their tasty meals in West Michigan, be sure to follow them on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/KuntryCookin231 and on Instagram at @KuntryCookin_231

Save the Date

And be sure to save the date for their upcoming Summer Sunset Soiree on Sunday, July 21st, 2019 which will be filled with delicious food and lots of fun!