@cmkculinary / 08035782455
Chef Anselyn is a culinary expert, a consultant and a trainer in restaurant and food business industry. He started his chef career as a kitchen assistant 11 years ago and worked his way to stardom by saving some of his salary to attend a culinary school in the US. His story is very inspiring and insightful.
Podcast Key Notes
Can you pleases introduce yourself and tell us about your background –
My name is Chef Anselyn Ugochukwu. My students call me chef Ans and that simply means I give answers to every cooking issue. I have been cooking for 11 years now and then it’s been an amazing journey. I started from when I was 6 years old and I share this view virtually with everybody that have come my way and with intentions to becoming a chef. It’s been awesome. I worked at sky restaurant in Eko Hotel then, I resigned 3 years ago and since then, I’ve been on my own. I worked for 8 years at Sky lounge, Eko Hotel.
I started off as a kitchen assistant. Basically, it was a job with no qualification. I worked hard and rose up the ranks, I worked hard and saved over a long period. I went back to school and eventually went to the Gastronomy Culinary Art School in Miami.
Now you have a Culinary School, do you still work as a chef or are you all focused on the school?
Well, I train, I do private catering and I consult as well. Most of the students that graduate from my school; end up opening their restaurant so i consult and assist them in setting up.
How long is your Culinary School Course(s)? – www.cmkculinary.com
We have a diploma programme that runs for 9 months; that’s the longest programme that we have and we have another programme that runs for 5 months – professional short programme. We also have pastries diploma that runs for 4 months. Classes run for 4 hrs daily from 10:00am – 2:00pm. We have morning and afternoon classes though and as a matter of fact we have 2 branches in Lagos and Port harcourt. I do 2 weeks in Lagos and 2wks in Ph every month.
Basically part of the reason why I went into training is because while I was working at the sky lounge, I wanted to go to culinary school in Nigeria but then I realized that there were hardly any in Nigeria at that time. It was a shame that I couldn’t find any.
Based on your experience, what are the challenges you think people face when they try to open a restaurant?
One of the challenges is that people sometimes think that as a consultant; they walk up to you and then you tell them to do this and do that, and that’s it; no! They already have a concept in their mind and then you’ll find out that the concept in their mind is basically the same thing every other person is doing. So, in trying to change their concept for them; which attracts a huge cost because food business requires a lot; some of them step backward and then they end up opening the same idea that they have that other people have been doing and then after 2-3 years, they are closed up.
So the way around that for some people who can when they come to us ; we design a plan for them – the type of menu that suits the environment they are looking at. So, that’s a huge challenge looking out for suitable environment for the kind of food you want to sell and then the kind of clients you are looking out for.
(Listen to the podcast to learn more about the how to handle restaurant startup challenges)
After 1st year of running a restaurant, what do you think the challenges are for business owners?
Most times I tell clients to not expect to make profit in the very first year and then you should keep aside 6 months salary because the truth about the matter is that they people you hope to buy your product already before that time have places where they go o eat. So, there are so much we need to do to get them out of where they usually go to.
Most a times, people provide products and services that they can’t keep up to after a period of 6 months or 1 year and by the time people begin to experience that they are no longer consistent, they begin to return back to where they were coming from.
Another thing that happens is that when flavors and food taste begins to change between 1-6 months of startup – due to inconsistency, you lose your clients to competitors. People are looking for something better always – extra quality, extra services different from what they are used to.
What would you say was the secret of success while you were at Sky Lounge?
I would say our services, consistency and our food which taste extra good; also partly because the restaurant has retained most staff for over 8-10. Another thing we do is that in every 3-4 months, there is a new menu; given our customers something new to explore.
In what ways can you make sure your staff remain consistent and they will also grow with the business?
First, owners of businesses should not be afraid to train their staff. If you have typical Nigerian mentality of if I train them, they will go to somewhere else; you will find out that you will have problem running your business. So, owners must be willing to train. Training has to be consistent. There’s a cost for training that employers should always consider.
Secondly, from my own observation and experience in dealing with clients; when we design menu, we try to make sure that all of the staff members are trained on the menu so it does not stay in the hands of one staff making it difficult for others to run it if the person is not available. One other way of keeping staff is by letting them understand that they are part of the business by making them feel belong – most chefs (staff) are not well paid and they are not being recognised by the restaurant owners. (Listen to the podcast for more…)
What is it like climbing the chef ladder?
You becoming a renowned chef depend on how you grow in the industry after your culinary school. For a chef in training, you have to gather experience from working under and/or with someone with much experience; that has been in the industry much longer than you to learn the craft and add to the knowledge you have from the school to really climb the chef ladder. You would need to work for some time to be on top of the chef ladder. Our students go for internship in high brow restaurant to get field experience and come back to school to finish up.
What advice would you give someone starting up?
- My advice for those who want to become chef is that there is a need for you to learn; becoming a chef is lifetime training.
- You never would stop training. So don’t work up to us and say, oh is there any programme I can do in 1 month or 2 that can make me a chef, no! We don’t have any.
- You must be willing to spend; it cost a thing. It’s not hereditary.
- For owners of restaurants, please do as much as you can to keep your chef; don’t make them feel like they are whatless.
- It’s important that you take care of your staff because they are No.1 that keeps your restaurant going.
- Don’t compromise with ingredients. Don’t tell us to manage when we don’t want to.
- Don’t ask us to use wrong recipe.
- Don’t tell us to use wrong equipment e.g, using a blender when I’m supposed to use a food processor.
- We are ready to work as long as you are willing to give us what makes our job a whole lot easier.
- In general, take care of your staff as they take care of your business.
N/B: CMK Culinary represented Nigeria at this year’s India Cooking Olympia of which 50 countries were in attendance.
Key Takeaway Points:
- For those who want to become chef is that there is a need for you to learn; becoming a chef is lifetime training.
- You must be willing to spend; it cost a thing. It’s not hereditary
- You becoming a renowned chef depend on how you grow in the industry after your culinary school
- For a chef in training, you have to gather experience from working under and/or with someone with much experience
- Train all your staff on the menu so it doesn’t stay in the hand of one staff
- Let your staff understand that they are part of the business by making them feel belong; care for them
- Don’t expect to make profit in the very first year
- Keep aside 6 months salary
- Owners of businesses should not be afraid to train their staff
- When flavors and food taste begins to change between 1-6 months of startup – due to inconsistency, you lose your clients to competitors
- People you hope to buy your product already before that time have places where they go to eat. So, there are so much we need to do to get them out of where they usually go to
- People are looking for something better always – extra quality, extra services different from what they are used to
- How do you plan on converting your potential customers
- Be unique in your service and offering
- Go to culinary school to be better informed
- For owners of restaurants, please do as much as you can to keep your chef; don’t make them feel like they are whatless
- It’s important that you take care of your staff because they are No.1 that keeps your restaurant going
- Don’t compromise with ingredients. Don’t tell us to manage when we don’t want to.