Maria Bradford Kitchen has re-branded and we are proud to launch Shwen Shwen.

We’re thrilled to unveil our refreshed brand identity. This demonstrates the evolution and progress of Maria Bradford Kitchen since its conception in 2017.  While this is a significant change, our core beliefs haven’t changed.  We are still hell bent on inspiring, elevating culture, connecting people, and making a difference through food.  Over the last few months, we have poured our hearts and souls into creating a new image that would accurately depict what Maria Bradford Kitchen is about.  It’s purpose!

The inspiration behind this re-brand lies in how Maria styles her food, the fine ingredients and exquisite flavours she draws on, but it’s much more than that.

Since opening her kitchen in 2017, Maria has cooked Afro-fusion food inspired by her Sierra Leonean heritage.  Africa is the final frontier of food and a continent that is rich in resources, with untapped agricultural potential.  Maria is gathering a new breed of explorers.  Foodies!  

Foodies, willing to pay a fair price for precious resources, genuinely interested in African culture and traditions. They seek new ingredients, new flavours, and see value in techniques that have been forgotten. This new generation are keen to expand their horizons and understand the perspective of those on the other side of the frontier.  This new breed of explorers will take nothing but memories, and leave only an enduring positive social and economic footprint.  

This is about people and food.

It is about connecting people through food. 

Why Shwen Shwen?

Many people have described Maria Bradford’s as fancy.  Shwen Shwen is a phrase used in her native Krio meaning ‘fancy’ and many of her fellow Sierra Leonean’s have said to Maria “dis na Shwen Shwen it”. At Shwen Shwen we source high quality producers, create stunning dishes, offer new experiences and serve them to people with a refined interest in food. 

If you desire something fresh, vibrant, exotic and flavoursome then join us.  We intend to put Afro-fusion cuisine and traditional Sierra Leonean dishes on the map.  In doing so we are going to have a lot of fun on the way, but this is also about creating a platform on which others can build. We are keen to connect with African producers, suppliers and more broadly other creatives within the diaspora that share our passion for elevating culture, connecting people and making a difference through what we do.   

Connect with us!

  • We are fancy – We are sophisticated and critically acclaimed.
  • We are cultured – We are proud of ours and respectful of others.
  • We are citizens – We stand against inequalities and imagine a better world.
  • We are not what you expect – We are changing perceptions one meal at a time.

In the spirit of connection and if you enjoy social media, please connect with us on Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook.   We’d love to hear from you.

More news

Get served all things Shwen Shwen, from press, events and new products.

Introducing Maria’s Grandmother

Mariama Kabba is a strong independent woman, and an inspiration.

Mariama lives in Bo, Sierra Leone. Bo, also commonly referred to as Bo Town, is the second largest city in Sierra Leone by landscape/geographical location (after Freetown and the largest city in the Southern Province. Bo is the capital and administrative center of Bo District.  For many years Mariama lived in Sembehun 17 which is a town in Bo District.

No-one knows how old Mariama is because in those days people did not record Birthdays.  She knows she was born in the summer and she remembers the 1945 earthquake clearly, so the family think she is in her 90’s.

Originating from Guinea/Mali

Mariama Kabba is the daughter of Madam Isata Camara (Maria’s great grand mother) who was born in Kánkàn, Guinea.  Kankan was founded by the Soninke people in the 18th century, after which it became an important trading centre, particularly for kola nuts which is her business to this day.  Madam Isata Camara was the third of three children.  She had a brother called Momodou Camara and sister named Mmah Camara.  They had family in Sierra Leone.  Isata’s father was called Fodie Camara and he was Koniaka-malinké from Mali.  He was born towards the end of the The Wassoulou Empire, sometimes referred to as the Mandinka Empire.

Isata Camara travelled to Sierra Leone with her mother, father and siblings from Guinea to Sierra Leone when she was a teenager. They came to trade Kola nuts and tobacco for gold and diamonds.  Her father, Fodie Carama left the Bo district to return to Guinea to buy more stock and sadly died suddenly.  Without a husband and home to return too, Isata’s mum remained in Sierra Leone with her three children.

Isata married Pa Fodie Kabba and they had three daughters,  Mariama Kabba is the youngest.

Pa Fodie Kabba asked his daughter Mariama, to marry his friends son named Gaamoh Abdullah Bawoh (Maria Bradford’s Grandfather) who was Muslim.  They had three children named Fatmata (Maria Bradford’s mother), Isatu and Fomba.  Sadly Fomba died during Ramadan at the tender age of 26 years old.  He fell from a coconut tree and died instantly.

Maria’s Grandmother, Mariama Kabba separated from her husband, Gaamoh Abdullah Bawoh because in her mothers words ” E nor bin dae take good care of am en e bin dae beatam”.  Sierra Leone has a long history of sexual and gender based violence, dating back to the colonial era and stretching into the years of independence which began in 1961. The country’s civil war, which raged between 1991 and 2002, brought international attention to the high levels of violence against women.  In this way, Sierra Leone is similar to many young democracies in Africa with a violent history; it struggles with patriarchal attitudes and high levels of violence against women and girls. This needs to change.

Mariama Kabba had the strength of character to leave the situation which was extremely rare for a woman of her generation and cannot have been easy.

Mariama Kabba was fortunate to re-marry and have three more children.  She married her cousin, Amara Kabba and together they had three children Jebbeh Kabba, Mustapha Kabba and Mariama Kabba who all lived happily in Sembehun 17, Bo town and Freetown.

Life in the village was simple but in many ways hard.  Farming life was too much for Mariama,  her daughter persuaded her to move to Bo town. Even to this day the family cannot convince her to leave Bo and live in Freetown. She is happy in Bo surrounded by lots more family.

A strong independent woman.

Beyoncé wrote the fabulous feminist anthem “Independent Women”.  Well the girls in Africa can get down like that, and have been for centuries.

To this day Mariama Kabba is a strong, independent woman.  She’s the type to quietly look a challenge in the eye and give it a wink!

Mariama is an entrepreneurial soul, and like many many women in Sierra Leone makes her own money by small scale trading.  For years she had sold kola nuts and snuff.  The Coca Cola Company has competition in Bo, with Mariama Kabba.  The kola nut is the fruit of the kola tree, a genus (Cola) of trees that are native to the tropical rainforests of Africa. The caffeine-containing fruit of the tree is used as a flavoring ingredient in beverages, and is the origin of the term “cola”.

Human use of the kola nut, like the coffee berry and tea leaf, appears to have ancient origins. It is chewed in many West African cultures, in both private and social settings, as a source of mental stimulation.

Kola nuts are an important part of the traditional spiritual practice of culture and religion in West Africa, particularly Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia.  They were used as a form of currency in such West African groups as the Malinke and Bambara of Mali and Senegal. They are still used as such today in certain situations such as in negotiation over bride prices or as a form of a respect or host gift to the elders of a village should one move to a village or enter a business arrangement with the village.

An African Cook

Finally it is important that we mention, that Mariama Kabba is a great cook.  Maria (Bradford’s) early memories of her grandmother visiting her family in Freetown was that she would come with gifts in the form of fresh produce.  She’s very resourceful and can make a mean meal out of nothing.  Maria would look forward to her visits and recalls that she would always complain and say her daughter (Maria’s mother, Fatmata) was wasteful and would use too much fish or produce.  Mariama Kabba taught Maria the importance of making a little go a long way, lot’s of ways to be efficient and the power of fresh ingredients.

Without Mariama Kabba handing these lessons down, taking the time to teach and share there would not be Maria Bradford and there would be no Salone Fire, no Salone Spark, no African inspired drinks and mixers and no Shwen Shwen.

Like so many women in Sierra Leone, Mariama Kabba is the full circle.  She has demonstrated throughout her long life that she has the ability to create, nurture and transform.  She has been an inspiration to Maria Bradford and her family in so many ways.


As a proud Sierra Leonean I just want to share a little about “D sai way ar komot” just a little about my sweet salone.  I can get a bit fed up with the unrelenting negative stereotypes of the African continent generally spread by the mainstream media, and the damage this does to the perceptions of people who have never been.  Whenever I meet someone for the first time and we get on to chatting about my heritage or my childhood and I say I am from Sierra Leone, the primary image in peoples minds is the film Blood diamond.

Sierra Leone is about the size of Ireland and within its borders it manages to squeeze in beeches, rainforests, mountains, savannah, grasslands, marshes, mangrove swamps and rivers into it’s relatively small 71,740km2.   In this short post I have listed just a few of my countries positive attributes.

Diverse wildlife

Widely varied habitats support a wealth of flora and fauna, including some 15 primate species.  You can get close to chimpanzees at the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. 

Please do visit

Cultural celebrations

Whether bewitched by the National Dance Troupe or joining the raucous Ma Dengn beach party, the lively Freetown festival scene will keep you partying well into the small hours.  To find out more about our culture please check out

Pristine beaches along the Peninsula 

Whatever your idea of seaside bliss, there is a beach here to match.  Here are the top five (Not in order of preference).

  1. Lumley Beach
  2. Tokeh Beach
  3. Sussex Beach
  4. Bureh Beach
  5. River Number 2

Climbing the mist shrouded peak of Mount Bintumani 

Mount Bintumani (also known as Loma Mansa) is the highest peak in Sierra Leone and the Loma Mountains, at 1,945 metres (6,381 ft). It lies in the Loma Mountains and its lower slopes are covered in rainforests, home to a wide variety of animals. These include pygmy hippopotamuses, dwarf crocodiles, rufous fishing-owls and numerous primates.

There’s lots to love about Sierra Leone. So please take time to explore it!


Islamic Wedding (Kent)

Maria Bradford catered for her first African wedding in 2017 and it was a wonderful day and memorable day for all sorts of reasons.  Not least because it was an honor and a pleasure to cater for her cousin Khadija’s wedding day, but also because the guest list included friends and family from the UK, US, Germany and of course Sierra Leone.

African Weddings

Since then Maria has regularly catered for Weddings in Freetown and London.  Due to the sheer size and diversity of Africa, wedding customs vary greatly not just between countries but between local communities. There is a growing trend among African communities where wedding ceremonies and marriage processes are blending traditional customs with modern practices.  Maria’s first wedding was an Islamic Wedding, but since then she has catered for Catholic Weddings, and traditional African weddings alike.

The image of this couple is so beautiful that we would like to introduce these two people:

Khadija & Malik – Mas Allah! The perfect couple

Mas Allah! You’re the perfect couple!

Both of you are like soul mates for each other and together you are so strong that no one can defeat you.

Allah! Keep them in your blessings!.

About Khadija

Khadija was born on Wednesday, 8th April 1993 in Netland Hospital Freetown. At four years of age she left Freetown with her parents to live in
Geneva Switzerland. She returned to Freetown, for one year and then moved to Denmark for five years. She has also lived in Bangladesh and then Deli,
India. She is now a medical doctor.  Khadija is the youngest daughter of Alhaji Murtada Sesay from Bo and Haja Fatmata Sesay from Pujehun.

About Malikie

Malikie was born on Monday 18th July 1988 in 34 military hospital Freetown. He lived in Freetown until he was fifteen years old and then moved to Malawi and
finished school in Malawi. When he was 19 he moved to Germany. He is running his business in Freetown.  Malikie is the son of Dr Bailah-Leigh from Bo and Haja Mariama Leigh from Kono. He has three sisters: Binta, Adama and Fatmata.

You look so happy on your wedding. Alhamdulillah!

This happiness is the indication of your love and the blessing of Allah!

It was a pleasure cooking for this special and oh so very memorable occasion.