INTERVIEW: Tokunbo’s Kitchen – Serving up a different kind of Supper Club
Come alone, leave with friends…My supper clubs have a networking vibe, if you come alone you won’t feel out of place. There are games, communal dining where you share a plate of food and get mingling, says Tokunbo – founder of Tokunbo’s Kitchen.
I came out of Angel tube station and immediately tapped in the address of the Starbucks where Tokunbo and I agreed to meet. I have the worst sense of direction and only had 10 minutes to get there, so I didn’t have time to get lost!
But by anxieties where unwarranted, the Starbucks was just across the road from the station and I was 5 minutes early. I bought a herbal tea and found a table. Notebook and pen ready, red record button on my iPhone begging to be pressed. I waited for ten minutes then Tokunbo rushes in flustered and apologetic for being late. Selfishly, it made me feel more at ease because I wasn’t late lol. Anyway, after big smiles and greetings exchanged we got started…
African food is becoming more popular in the UK, why do you think this is?
Social media! Our generation isn’t shy about documenting their food experiences. People create hashtags like #jollofwars, giving African food publicity!
Why did Tokunbo’s Kitchen start?
My mum taught me to cook Nigerian food from a young age with the expectation that I’d be cooking for a family one day. I saw that you can do so much with it and wanted others to experience it. Friends always commented on my food and I’d spoken with a friend about getting into the street food business. So, I did it!
I love being in the kitchen, making things happen and the freedom of running my own business.
I do everything myself, so creating a permanent team would help. The hardest part of running Tokunbo’s Kitchen is doing festivals and market stalls – I get around 5 hours sleep, cook, set up, on my feet all day, and do the washing up!
When did you start Tokunbo’s Kitchen?
In 2015 I went to a festival and queued for over an hour for jerk chicken! That’s when I thought I can definitely do this myself, and started Tokunbo’s Kitchen in September 2015.
What was your first Supper Club like?
At my first supper club, I served pounded yam in a communal setting, with a big bowl of Egusi stew (the same way you would get it in Lagos). That way people can try as much as they like. Many Nigerian dishes are vegan based and we cook with palm / coconut oil.
Nigerian food is a burst of different flavours. I make a chilli sauce as a side, so people can add spice themselves – anyone can eat my food.
What do you think about ‘African fusion’ food?
It’s fine, but I also like to keep food authentic especially when introducing it to a new audience. My non-African customer base is increasing, so I wouldn’t stray too far from my roots. If I did I would lose what makes me special.
What’s Tokunbo’s Kitchen ethos?
Bringing people together through great food, giving them a taste of Nigeria.
“When people are thinking about what to have for a takeaway I want them to think of Nigerian food and say ‘Let’s go to Tokunbo’s Kitchen and have some Jollof rice’”.
Have you eaten anything interesting lately?
The other day I had suya chicken and puff buns, it was like the Nigerian version of Chicken and Waffles. ‘Suya’ is the name of the popular beef snack but suya chicken is quite new in Nigerian cooking. The spice yaji used to make suya, is very versatile.
Most Popular dish of 2016 from Tokunbo’s Kitchen?
My Jollof, Ayamase stew (with green chili) cooked with palm oil and Iru (locust beans). Akara, which is black-eye bean fritters, was also quite popular last year.
What’s new in 2017?
There’s a lot in the works: A meal subscription service, more supper clubs, and pop-up venues across London. My first of the year will be at Craving Coffee on 3rd February, in Tottenham, London. I’m interested in doing a series of networking talks, on running a business, women empowerment and other topics, where of course there will be good food!
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