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Butter chicken, goat qorma, goat biryani, samosas. Photo by Alyssa Broadus

Featured Article

Mother and Daughter Make Inspiring Team at Sohaila’s Kitchen

Sohaila Humayon Battles Breast Cancer, Opens Pakistani Restaurant at Age 62

Article by Danielle Lehman

Photography by Alyssa Broadus, Chris Dolt

Sohaila Humayon is proof it’s never too late to pursue your dream. 

At the age of 62, she opened her first Pakistani restaurant, Sohaila’s Kitchen, inside the Lenexa Public Market. With the help of her family, particularly her youngest daughter, Amna Humayon, she’s been bringing traditional Pakistani and Indian dishes to the Kansas City area since 2018.

Sohaila’s childhood was what her daughter refers to as “both tragic and privileged and happy, all in one.” 

Sohaila grew up in Kuwait, as her father worked in the oil industry. But she spent most of her adolescent and teenage years at a boarding school in Lahore, where she discovered her passion for cooking.

“Food was always a big part of her family,” Amna says. “But in boarding school, she hated the food there. Imagine coming from a home where you get fresh cooked meals every day and then you go to boarding school and the food is just horrible. So she started teaching herself how to cook in boarding school and she would host these cute little tea parties for her friends.”

In her early 20s, Sohaila’s family arranged for her to marry a young man, Pervaiz Humayon, who was living in the United States and working as an engineer in Silicon Valley. Sohaila immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she would raise her three children, and eventually relocate to the Kansas City area. 

Within the first year of moving to the Midwest, Sohaila was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It was such a blow,” Amna says. “I remember getting the call. The nurse said, ‘the biopsy came back positive; it’s stage three.’ And I just felt my world collapsing." 

“When my mom was going through chemotherapy, she was constantly hospitalized, it wasn’t an easy journey for her. My grandmother actually died at 62 of breast cancer, and we believe her mother had breast cancer as well. So it wasn’t a huge surprise, but that’s why turning 62 and opening a restaurant at the age of 62 is so symbolic to her.”

Today, Sohaila is in better health and her restaurant is thriving. She hopes to continue to bring her cuisine and culture to the Kansas City area for many years to come.

“A goal of mine is to allow people to see that we’re just like any other family out there,” Amna says. “We are not different; we just have a different faith and way of practicing our faith. We are your average American family, with an American dream. We want to make a living and we want to provide customers with something that’s important to us: food. And, you know, what American can’t appreciate that?”

Hear more of their story on the Open Belly Podcast. Follow Danielle Lehman @openbelly 

  • Sohaila Humayon. Photo by Alyssa Broadus
  • Butter chicken, goat qorma, goat biryani, samosas. Photo by Alyssa Broadus
  • Butter chicken. Photo by Chris Dolt
  • Sohaila's Kitchen. Photo by Chris Dolt
  • Goat qorma. Photo by Chris Dolt
  • Amna Humayon. Photo by Danielle Lehman