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 Lagos chefs 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 Chef Who Plans to Teach Microbiology in the University
“When I started learning I didn’t know there was more to being a great cook than just the basic things our mothers taught us. So, as each day goes by, I reminisce over my decision to become a chef as I discover more and sharpen my skills. That just makes me so happy. So every day is my best day on the job”.
Tolu Adenijo – Angels confectionary and culinary
Where are you from?
I am from Osun State. But I was born in Lagos.
Please, tell us about your education
I attended Mayflower. I am in 400 level now studying Microbiology at the Olabisi Onabanjo University.
Tell us about your family
My dad just retired as the Registrar at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, my mom on the other hand is a business woman. I am the third child out of four children.
Where do you live?
I still live with my parents.
How did you start working as a Lagos chef?
That was in 2018. I started with baking at first. I started learning how to bake when I got into the university. I knew that I wanted to do more than baking. I have a passion for cooking.
Where did you train?
I trained with ‘Justfoodup’ in Lagos. The business has moved to Abuja. The training was over two years. I still go to my boss for one or two things I don’t understand. You keep learning.
Where did you work after your training?
I didn’t really work under anyone, I started off on my own. The only people I worked with was one baking school. I was being paid N4,000 for baking a cake which was not very good money.
Your first salary?
It was not really a salary. But it was the first money I made working as a chef. It was N10,000 in 2018.
How much did it cost you to establish?
I still work from home. I just got basic tools for N20,000.
What are the key utensils did you buy?
I bought a measuring equipment. This is required to measure whatever ingredient you are using. There are different brands, some cost as much as N11,000 while you can get some for even N1,000.
What are the main services you render?
I bake cakes for occasions like birthdays and weddings. I cook for parties and also for homes.
Have you ever done anything else apart from being a chef?
Nothing at all. Well, apart from being a student.
How many hours do you work in a day?
I work for 7 hours in day when I have big gigs.
What’s your best day like on the job?
Every day. When I started learning I didn’t know there was more to being a great cook than just the basic things our mothers taught us. So, as each day goes by, I reminisce over my decision to become a chef as I discover more and sharpen my skills. That just makes me so happy. So every day is my best day on the job.
Your worst day or experience on the job?
I had agreed payment for a package with a customer then she came back and wanted some items taken off while paying the same as agreed before for the remaining items. It was extremely difficult to explain to her that you can’t take away the small chops without affecting the quote for the rice.
Who are your main clients?
Majorly students. I also cater for wedding anniversaries and such.
What kind of meals do people often ask for and how much do they cost?
Rice is Nigeria’s party food – jollof, fried, ofada, etc. The cost depends on the number of people. For instance, fried rice, salad and chicken combo for 50 people will cost N50,000.
What’s the most expensive event you have ever catered for?
I baked a cake for a wedding ceremony and charged N70,000.
How much do you make in sales weekly?
How much do you spend in a day?
An average of N5,000
For how long have you been in the business as a Lagos chef?
I started in 2018, so I have been a Lagos chef for two years now.
Do you have savings and how much do you save in a month?
Yes, I save monthly.
Are you married?
No, I am not married.
Do you have plans to venture into something else apart from this business?
Not really. I just want to go for my master’s degree after my first degree in Microbiology. I might probably end up becoming a lecturer instead of just a chef.