JF: Who are you and what do you do?
Y: My name is Yinka Odukoya and I am a chef.
JF: Perfect. So tell me a little about yourself.
Y: So, I have always loved food! I have been cooking since I was around 7 years old. I mean, you know how it goes in an African household - in the kitchen from young. I would always watch my mum cook and genuinely loved being in the kitchen. I also had a lot of aunties that baked cakes and they were always eager to teach me their nifty tips and tricks. I found cooking exciting.
JF: So food and food preparation has always been a major interest of yours?
Y: 100%. In secondary school and college, I was always selling food and teaching people about food prep! I even used to attend part-time cooking classes. I soon realised that the A-Level route was not for me and decided to drop out and undertake a two-year course in food preparation. Upon successful completion, I started working as a chef at the Oxo Tower, London and learnt a great deal about food itself and the wider industry. As you can see, everything in my journey thus far has indeed been food-related. I decided to go to university to study Hospitality and Business Management. Having had extensive hands-on experience with food, I felt that it was important to develop my business acumen. It was in this space actually that I figured out what I wanted to do.
Y: In 2012, I registered my business. Between 2012 up until 2016, I did a lot of trial and error. My first business venture was in fact Yinx Tasty. This is where many people may know me from and it was definitely an experience to say the least!
JF: I can imagine, as with any industry, food is pretty broad. How did you figure out what area you wanted to really just specialise in?
Y: Exactly! Food is extremely broad, there is so much that you can do. I asked myself several questions to figure out what exactly I wanted to do. I tried and tested several things from catering for events and weddings to running a small takeaway business, I did it. My ultimate goal was and still is to own a restaurant and I believe that my 4-5 year period of trial and error allowed me to strengthen my tenacity, character and also motivated me to actually keep going! Everything happens for a reason and I feel extremely content with where I am right now.
JF: What have you learnt in this period?
Y: I honestly thought I was superwoman. From the cooking to branding, marketing, the business books, I was doing it all! I soon realised that no man is an island. It is important to have a solid team around you, people that identify with and share your passion and vision is imperative to your success. One business pearl of wisdom that I would give to readers is to NEVER GIVE UP! If you are passionate about something, never give up. If you have a business, product or even a service that can sell, keep going. Get your stuff out there! I am definitely speaking from experience. There were times when business would be booming for me and then there were times where things would dip seriously, but I am here today as a result of my perseverance. Keep going and you will make it!
JF: I agree, 110%. Just to pull you up on your point about having the right people around you -what is your support system like and how have they helped you on your journey?
Y: Amazing. My support system is simply amazing! My family, Lord knows I love and appreciate each and every one of them! My mother is my number 1 fan, my rock, my everything! She is the money and everything behind all that I do. I would not be where I am or who I am without my mother. I am sure many Africans can relate with the pressure to pursue traditional professions i.e. lawyer, doctor, engineers etc but I certainly cannot! My mother has supported my vision from the moment I told her I wanted to be a chef. She took the vision as her own and has put her all into helping me. I am also of faith and if I didn't have God in my life, I do not know where I would be! The struggle has been very real but my faith in Christ restores my hope and motivates me to continue pursuing my dream! I agree, having a solid support system is essential - surround yourself with the right people!
JF: Definitely. Now, onto your latest venture - Faaji Sundays! (komoles)
Y: Faaji Sundays, quite simply is a 'drunch party event', showcasing West African food, culture, fashion and really just bringing out West Africa for the younger crowd. If I am honest, Faaji Sundays describes me perfectly. If you know me, you will know I love West African food with a twist, correct beats and real 'feel-good' music so expect amazing dishes to be enjoyed with live band playing at Faaji Sundays! Funnily enough, the concept was developed by myself and my long-term friend of 16 years, Frances Kehinde. With her coming from a marketing and advertising background and myself with my catering experience, our expertise meshes perfectly and this beautiful and hopefully successful event, has come about!
JF: Love that! So how often will Faaji Sundays be? Is it just a one-off thing?
Y: Faaji Sundays will be every month! At the moment, it will either be on the first or last Sunday of every month - pencil that into your diaries ladies and gents! Keep your eyes on our various social media pages for more information! The first Faaji Sundays is on 26th February 2017 at a secret location from 6pm - 11pm! Tickets have sold out pretty quickly however there are a few available so visit www.faajisundays.com to purchase yours!
Be sure to check out Faaji Sundays:
Yinka already knows that I am a big fan of hers. I love her work ethic, evident energy and admire the way she remains true to herself and carries herself as a businesswoman. I hope that you are inspired to persevere with whatever venture it is that you are currently undertaking. Yinka, thank you for being a role model and an inspiration. On that note, if you would like to attend the next Faaji Sundays with me, let me know and I will personally buy you a ticket! Let's faaji, baby!