Working Lives- The Busy Lawyer Who Also Runs a Hectic Catering Business
Working Lives: The Flexible Chefs of Lagos
This Working Lives has involved a compromise. Strictly speaking, Chefs are those self-regarding culinary professionals in high white hats who rule the kitchens in top hotels and restaurants. You probably won’t want to invite them to prepare food for your birthday party because of the damage they will do to your budget. Many of them would anyway insist that you order from their establishments’ menu and probably take delivery yourself. We wanted to talk to them about their Working Lives. But while working on it, we found people professionally trained as chefs but who are, let say, “professionally flexible” i.e. they cook for anyone who can pay. We promise to do a series on the puritans sometime soon and give you an opportunity to compare.
Working Lives- The Busy Lawyer Who Also Runs a Hectic Catering Business
“We arrived the office at the agreed time but we could not get in for over two hours. The network was bad so it was difficult getting them on the phone. When they finally remembered they had contracted some people to bring lunch, they came to let us in but were struggling to put the blame on us”.
Kenny Anetekhai – Grubsvillekitchen
Where are you from?
I am from Ijebu Isiwo in Ogun State.
Please, tell us about your education
I studied law at the Lagos State University (LASU). I am a legal practitioner. I have been called to the Nigeria Bar. But because I have always had a passion for food, I love good food, I decided to learn more about cooking. Though most Nigerian women know how to cook, I still had to brush up my skills.
How did you start working as a chef?
During my childhood, my dad used to take us out a lot to eat at different restaurants. I also liked going to restaurants as a young lady. For me, food is not just about eating and getting filled up. When you eat in a place or when you taste a particular meal from any part of the world, it’s an experience, it’s not just about the food. For example, if our local ofada rice is prepared the way it is supposed to, in the Abeokuta style, it should bring Abeokuta to your mind when you eat it. If you travelled to India and enjoyed some of their food, when you eat the same dishes in Nigeria, they should bring back memories of India to you. Food should be about experiences. About emotions. I think food plays a very important role in our lives so it is not surprising I have chosen to become a chef despite being a lawyer.
Where did you train?
I first understudied someone, a friend who is a caterer. Just to know the basics for like 6 months. After that, I started my business. Then I went to Reddish Culinary School in Lagos where I did a diploma in continental dishes. I have not stopped learning. I sign up for so many short courses, seminars, webinars, events, conferences, day trainings etc. There are always new things one has to keep abreast of. I keep improving myself daily, on cooking skills as well as on managing the business.
Where did you work after your training?
I started off on my own, I didn’t work under anyone.
How much did it cost you to establish?
N30,000. The initial plan for the money was to get branded packs for an online promotion. Branded packs for dishing the food out, this will have my business name on it and contact details. I had to promote my Instagram business page too just so people out there can notice the brand. But Lagos people showed me pepper on that day. Out of the N30,000 I had in my bag, N15,000 was stolen from me at the market. I still don’t understand how it happened. I had to buy less than what I had budgeted for and go back to my house.
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What are the key utensils you needed to buy and how much did they cost?
I did not have to really buy much. My mother had so many cooking utensils in store.
Did you get a bank loan?
No, I didn’t. The plan was to start off on a small scale, and then use whatever money my first customer paid to foot the bills for the ingredients and that was how it went on. And here we are today, doing well.
What are the main services you render?
So basically, we do outdoor catering services for parties, we also do private catering, that is for people that want caterers to come into their homes to do food for private parties. And then we also do office lunch packs. People can order online and then we deliver to their office. We also do bulk cooking for homes. Many women out there don’t have the time to cook every day because of their work schedule. Bachelors too order food in bulk.
Have you ever done anything else apart from being a chef?
Yes, I am still practicing law a 9-5. I work with a private law firm. I have people who run the business, including a capable assistant who is in charge of getting temporary staff service boys, waiters, waitresses, supervisors etc. for outdoor events.
How many hours do you work in a day?
I have never really thought about this. When we are very busy, I work for 14-15 hours in a day. Outdoor events make you work almost 24 hours- going to the market, cooking overnight, going to the venue, then sorting out the invoicing. I have to be at the venue to supervise the cooking.
What’s your best day like on the job?
There are some jobs that just go smoothly, from procurement to buying the ingredients at the market. You get the ingredients cheaper than your estimate. My best days are when things fit very well into my budget, the cooking goes well and it is delivered on time. The client is happy and tells people how good you are.
Your worst day or experience on the job?
Once, we had to deliver lunch to an organization. We arrived the office at the agreed time but we could not get in for over two hours. The network was bad so it was difficult getting them on the phone. When they finally remembered they had contracted some people to bring lunch, they came to let us in but were struggling to put the blame on us. Thank God, I haven’t really had these ugly experiences like a customer shouting at me because something went wrong.
Who are your main clients?
People who want food delivered to their homes or are doing big parties. We also cater for offices. People also order online and we deliver the lunch packs to them.
What kind of meal do people often ask for and how much do they cost?
People like Chinese meals a lot, I don’t know why. So, we get a lot of orders for that. For an individual ordering a Chinese meal, a pack of it costs N2,500-N3,000, but if you are buying in bulk, the price can drop. Let’s say you are ordering for 100 people, we can work out something for you, you don’t have to pay that N2,500/N3,000. You will probably pay N2,000.
Also Read: Working Lives: The Babcock Uni Accounts Grad Who Became a Corporate Chef
What’s the most expensive event you have ever catered for?
I think it was a birthday party. A mother was throwing a birthday party for her 1-year old son and they really went all out. In fact, when I gave them my quote, they didn’t even bargain. That job was fun.
What things do you spend money on?
My looks. You have to dress smart in this line of business so clients can respect you. Appearance means a lot to people. One needs to dress smart and bougie so they won’t think you are one of those abele caterers. Clothe, hair, nails, and shoes all have to be on point.
For how long have you been in the business?
I have been in the business for two years now.
Are you married?
Yes, I am married with 3 kids.
Do you have plans to venture into something else apart from this business?
Yes, I hope to own a restaurant one day. So, help me God.