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Local chef featured in Apple TV series

Chef Jamal Hashi, formerly of Safari Express, rose to popularity in Minnesota in 2010 when he debuted camel on a stick at the State Fair.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Take a walk down memory lane and pull up the Great Minnesota Get-Together 13 years ago.

In 2010, the new food sensation was none other than camel on a stick.

"I was wondering how else would I get Americans to try camel meat," Chef Jamal Hashi recalled. "And this is a meat that we hold in high regard in my culture."

So when the then-Safari Express chef found out he could source camel meat locally, he seized the State Fair — and the fair swallowed him whole. 

"It was loved," Hashi said with a big smile. "It was all over the news; we had great presentation at the State Fair."

That great success launched Chef Hashi to where he is today. He is currently the owner of several wildly successful Somali restaurants in the nation. Some of which are firsts in the communities they serve. He's also the owner and chef de cuisine of St. Paul Restaurant & Catering, the biggest minority-owned catering business in the U.S.

"I find happiness in making other people happy, eating good food, you know?" Hashi said.

The story of Hashi's success back in 2010 captivated Apple TV producers as camel on a stick had done with State Fair-goers.

Hashi's story is now featured as an episode in the Apple TV series called "Little America." The season debuted last month.

"Jamal Hashi is an icon," Abdi Mohamed said. Mohamed is a local journalist and worked as a consultant for the episode.

Mohamed, who was at the episode's premiere event hosted by the MSP Film Society, said "Little America" has done a phenomenal job of staying authentic to the real Somali story.

"Somali people have endured so many negative tropes in the media when it comes to Hollywood — when it comes to 'Black Hawk Down,' and other versions of that," Mohamed said. "Either you're a terrorist or you're a pirate. Today, we saw you can be an inspiring chef in Minneapolis who wants to make it big at the State Fair."

The episode was not only written by Somali writers but also features all Somali actors, which was something Hanad Abdi cherished. Abdi played Hashi in the episode.

"There's not many of us," Abdi said. "I especially didn't have people who looked like me on screen, so for me to be able to represent our people and be some type of pioneer, be an inspiration to kids younger than me people older than me, there's no words that can describe that for sure."

And just as camel meat on a stick had been a spark of greatness for Hashi, Hashi said he hopes his story can ignite something in others, too. 

"Creating something that's great, that's being appreciated now, not only locally but nationally, and being able to share that story — it's definitely a humbling experience, you know?" Hashi said. "I'm still living it, and I'm honored."

"Little America" is available to stream on Apple TV currently. 

Other episodes feature other immigrant success stories.

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