Sister Act

A sign at the entrance to Musulyn’s International Cuisine in Covington reads, ‘Welcome to Our Story.’ It invites guests to learn more about chef Carmenia Tyrus and her journey from nurse to restaurateur. A true immigrant American success story, Tyrus has now embarked on a new project to bring one of Georgia’s treasured icons back to life. 

by Kari Apted

Sisters Carmenia Tyrus and Musulyn Morgan had a dream. Born in Liberia, the siblings grew up in the United States and ended up together in Georgia as adults. Tyrus was a nurse by trade but had always loved to cook. She attended culinary school at Gwinnett Tech to brush up on specific skills, but she considers herself primarily a self-trained chef. 

“I’ve always been very passionate about food,” Tyrus said, “and I shared that passion with my sister.”

The two decided to save up to open a restaurant together after Tyrus paid off her car. It would have an international menu, including the traditional African foods they grew up eating. Their dream extended beyond an ordinary restaurant. They also planned to offer catering, an event space and a gift shop. Morgan retired at the age of 49, ready to launch an exciting new business with her beloved little sister. However, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the very day she retired. Because pancreatic cancer has few symptoms until it is well advanced, up to 80% of patients are already at late stages when diagnosed. Before Morgan succumbed to her illness, Tyrus vowed never to let their plans fade away.

“I promised her I would continue with our journey and our dreams,” Tyrus said. “I opened a catering business and named it after her.” 

“I’ve always been very passionate about food, and I shared that passion with my sister.”

Carmenia Tyrus

So it was that Musulyn’s Catering and Event Planning was born, and Tyrus began cooking for businesses, weddings and social events. She searched far and wide for the perfect place to expand her business but believes God had His own plans. She eventually procured her current brick-and-mortar storefront on US 278 in Covington. Tyrus describes a visit to Musulyn’s International Restaurant as “an international fine dining experience” previously lacking in Newton County. “It’s a fusion experience,” she said. “We have African, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Italian and American soul food cuisine. I can make just about any kind of dish or entrée.”

Tyrus’ culinary expertise shines in the elegant plating of her creations. Every entrée is artfully arranged and garnished—making even classic home-cooked staples like fried chicken feel sophisticated and refined. The African cuisine is perhaps the restaurant’s biggest draw and the food that brings the strongest remembrance of Musulyn to Tyrus’ mind. 

“When I moved to Georgia, we became really close,” Tyrus said. “She’s the one who taught me how to make our traditional African foods.” Tyrus says she often hears how happy her customers are that they no longer have to drive to Atlanta to enjoy genuine African cuisine. “You couldn’t find African food here in Covington,” she said. Tyrus suggests coming in early or calling the restaurant to inquire about the day’s African menu before heading there, as “it always sells out fast.”

The restaurant’s offerings from the continent include Musulyn’s recipe for egusi soup, a nutty and savory West African stew. Traditionally, it is made with made with ground melon seeds, palm oil, vegetables and a combination of beef and seafood. It is commonly served with a side of fufu, a soft cooked dough that can be made from cassava, plantains or yams. Guests are encouraged to eat with their hands by pinching off a piece of fufu and using it to scoop up the rich egusi soup. Cooked sweet potato greens provide a flavorful alternative to the usual southern side of collard greens. However, those who love collards need not worry—Tyrus makes those, too. Classic Southern soul food appears on the menu daily, featuring home-cooked sides like macaroni and cheese and candied yams. 

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“I think we have the best oxtails, the best catfish and the best fried chicken,” Tyrus said.

Although the restaurant’s popular International Night feature is on pause, Tyrus is considering returning to it soon. Once a month, on Friday nights, Tyrus would invite a chef specializing in international cuisine to come to the restaurant and prepare a five- to seven-course meal. The ticketed event included signature cocktails from the featured country and an educational presentation highlighting that specific cuisine.

Tyrus’ unique menu offerings and fusion cooking style have made Musulyn’s one of Covington’s hidden gems. She was delighted when community excitement about her restaurant led to an invitation to join the ranks of over 800 locally owned independent restaurants and appear on “America’s Best Restaurants.” Filmed by a media company of the same name, these ABR Roadshow episodes are featured on their website and social media networks, including TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. These Food Network-style features include an interview, a cooking demonstration and details about the establishment’s background. Tyrus had to decide what to cook for the cameras to prepare for the crew’s visit. 

“They told me to cook my best dish, so I narrowed it down to things that would highlight our menu and draw people in. I chose special dishes that I know people will be interested in trying,” she said. Tyrus did not divulge what dishes she chose to share with the crew, though taping has completed and the show will air later this year. “You’ll have to watch the show to find out. I’m glad we were featured so people can see what we have to offer.” 

Patrons should also be on the lookout for the next restaurant to serve Tyrus’ signature Southern cuisine, as she will be the new chef at the famous Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle. Forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic, the iconic restaurant will serve its guests the Southern cuisine they remember, along with foods featuring Tyrus’ creative touch. The new owners are in the process of working with government agencies to obtain their food establishment permits. Tyrus suggests people follow the Blue Willow Inn’s Facebook page for updates on the reopening process.

Tyrus wishes her sister was still here to enjoy the restaurant’s success but finds peace and pride in knowing she has successfully fulfilled the duo’s dream. 

“We have a lot to offer the community: fine dining, great customer service, delicious food,” she said. “I’d love for people to come by and enjoy the whole experience.” 

Click here to read more stories by Kari Apted. 

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