While her family ate rations in the midst of the Liberian Civil War, Princess Wreh’s mother made sure that what little food they had tasted good.
“I saw my mom trying to make a little out of nothing,” Wreh says.
At 13, Wreh came to the U.S. to live with her uncle through a resettlement program. Her parents and sisters remained in a refugee camp, and cooking became a way for Wreh to remain connected with her family.
“The entire time I was here, I was missing my mom,” Wreh says. “We had bonding moments when we were cooking.”
After high school, Wreh spent years in the military and the medical field, trying her hand at different careers.
“I was like, ‘I’ll try this (and) I’ll try this,’” Wreh says. “But my passion was always cooking.”
So Wreh made the leap, earning a degree at Dallas’ Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. She learned to incorporate her family-taught cooking skills into the structure and preparation necessary for restaurant work, and she began experimenting with presentation and menu.
“And then it was time,” Wreh says.
Monrovia Lounge, named after Liberia’s capital city, overlooks LBJ at Skillman Street, serving Wreh’s Liberian food with Cajun flair.
Monrovia Lounge is as much about understanding the food as tasting it, according to Wreh and husband Femi Williams.
Most nights, Williams serves as the translator for restaurant patrons wanting to learn about Liberian food and culture. Williams also came to the U.S. through the resettlement program; they met at Wreh’s high school graduation.
“There’s a whole lot people can learn from each other,” Wreh says. “And so that’s what we try to do. When people come in there, he will talk to every customer… And if they’re curious about the food, he will go over and talk about it, walk them through.”