Getting To Know Tokunbo

By Tokunbo, 4 February, 2016

How did it all start?
It started the night after I waited two hours for jerk chicken that was meant to be ready in “another fifteen minutes” at a garden party at the end of last year summer and in so doing missed the act I went there to see, Femi Kuti!
On getting home I went online and took steps that led to the implementation of an idea that I had been thinking about for over a year. This was the genesis of Tee’s Food Corner with the vision of “bringing Nigerian food to a global audience”.

Where are your family from?
Nigeria. I was born in London hence the name Tokunbo which in Yoruba translates into someone that came from over the seas. I was raised in Nigeria until the age of 9 and I think this had a huge impact on my taste buds as even when I came back to London I wouldn't eat or try non Nigerian food for many years.

What African country do you visit the most and why should other people visit that country?
Obviously Nigeria though one of my goals is to visit more countries on the African continent. I think people should visit Nigeria for the diverseness of its people and food. Nigeria is like five countries in one and touring the country is one of my long term goals.

What food do you cook?
Mainly Nigerian food from the Yoruba tribe such as egusi (melon seeds) stew, okra stew, pounded yam, rice and beans with ayamase (spicy stew) and fried rice. But every now and then I get tired of stew and I am now proud to be able to cook lasagne from scratch! I also love lamb chops with mashed potatoes and grilled fish.

Read The Modern African-Inspired Cuisine of Bim's Kitchen

Where can I find your foods how do I get to buy them?
Currently my pop stall is running at Upmarket at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane every Saturday. I am planning to start a weekly lunchtime café at The Engine Room in Hale Village, Tottenham. I will also be popping up at other weekday markets across London in the next few weeks. There is also a plan to start a monthly Nigerian supper club from April. I am also able to offer personal catering for individuals and groups.

What's your favourite African dish? and other African drinks?
Prior to 2015 it was okra stew with pounded yam until I discovered the recipe for egusi stew on a Nigerian food blog. Since then both stews have been in competition for my affections with egusi often winning but okra continues to be a strong contender.

What's your least favourite African dish?
Eba, a well-loved Nigerian dish made from Garri (cassava). I had it for the first time in over 20 years a few years back and was reminded why I stopped eating it.

Where would you like to see your brand in the next five years?
In five years’ time, I would like Tee’s Food Corner and Tokunbo’s Kitchen to be a household name when thinking about African food not only in London but globally. I would like to eventually have a restaurant or space where people can come and enjoy Nigerian food without the usual complaints of poor customer service and delay in getting the food.

How did you come up with the brand name and marketing style?
I came up with Tee’s Corner a couple years ago as a brand with many divisions. Actually the food corner is my second venture after Tee’s Bargain Corner, a clothing and accessories business I started when I was living in Nigeria in 2010. I have been involved in the business world from a young age and picked up marketing skills from various experiences which include negotiating with wholesalers in Manhattan, New York City at the age of 15 years. I am also a consummate bargain hunter which has a huge influence in my marketing style. I believe very much that the ideal customer experience in getting value for your money and coming away with an unexpected added bonus.

How did you perfect the tastes?
I am a perfectionist when it comes to cooking so when I find a recipe I like I will cook it on a regular basis usually changing or adding new ingredients or seasonings until I am able to cook it in my sleep. I will then share my creations with family and friends using their feedback to tweak it until they have only great things to feedback.

What sort of obstacles have you come across whilst trying to realise your dream?
None really, have received mostly goodwill and support, often from unexpected corners in this endeavour. I had some friends express concerns about my decision to focus on this full time and not use my professional training as a social worker but having people enjoy my food and introducing more people to Nigerian cuisine gives me an awesome buzz and the kind of satisfaction I never really got from social work.

Any chefs or cooks you look up to?
Ozoz from Kitchenbutterfly blog is an amazing chef and all round human being. The creations she comes up with always lives me stunned and I can’t wait for her to release a cookbook. Dunni from Dooney’s Kitchen is another Nigerian food blogger I admire along with Ronke – 9jafoodie. I also love what Makda of LemLem kitchen is doing with her modern fusion of Eritrean food.

Read Jason's Little Kitchen

Can you recommend any African cook books?
The Groundnut Cookbook is one I have recently learnt about and already found a great recipe that makes use of soft plantain which I normally detest and often throw away so I’m excited to see what else they have for me to try and enjoy.

Do you have a recipe we can share?

Stay tuned to this page as I will be sharing several recipes in the next few weeks.


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