HEELS IN THE KITCHEN: HEAD CHEF TOMI IMOTEDA ALADEKOMO
“When starting a business do not listen to the yes men but pay attention to what the “nay sayers” think. You can use negativity to push yourself to grow.”
Being an entrepreneur involves taking risks and believing in your dreams. This is true for Cordon Bleu Chef and founder of Heels in the Kitchen Imoteda who left her makeup industry job to pursue a career in the food industry. She left her steady job with almost no experience in the food industry to pursue her dream of creating simple, easy meals for the people of Nigeria. The idea to start Heels in the Kitchen came from what Chef Imoteda describes as lack of representation of black faces on many cooking shows as well as lack of representation of Nigerian culture. Furthermore, these shows featured recipes that did not cater to the Nigerian palette. The main concept of Heels in the Kitchen was to provide great tasting food that catered to the palettes of Nigerian people without comprising the appearance of the food. Chef Imoteda’s idea to incorporate the fashion aspect and to mix it with food was a revolutionary idea and among the first of its kind in the country. The Nigerian food industry is currently in its infancy stage and there are very few gourmet food companies like Heels in the Kitchen that aim to give food a stylish twist. Chef Imoteda decided to start a food company that brought together style and food because there are she wanted to combine these two things that are so important to Nigerian people and central to Nigerian culture. Imoteda describes her fellow Nigerians as very fashionable people and she wanted her food to reflect this.
After studying for three years in London she was officially a Cordon Bleu chef and she was ready to spearhead a food company. According to Imoteda, she attended culinary school because she did not believe in jumping into things without the proper knowledge and without necessary preparation. Armed with her culinary school knowledge as well as with the funding from her immediate family, Chef Imoteda started Heels in the Kitchen. The company is divided into two parts: the cooking service and the show. Heels in the Kitchen cooking services provides many different services including: deliver of ready-made dishes, catering services for events and private chef services. According to Imoteda, her biggest challenge in starting her company and supplying food has been finding a reliable local supplier who could provide products needed to make certain dishes all year round. Another key challenge she faced that is a common challenge for many who start their own businesses was the issue of funding. There are many different appliances needed to keep a top of the line kitchen running and these do not come cheap.
Currently Heels in the Kitchen team is working on a cooking show that the Chef hopes will become comparable to the Food Network in North America. The show will have 96 episodes featuring celebrity guests and audience participation. We anticipate that the show will stay true to Heels in the Kitchen concept of giving viewers an overall fashionable and tasty food experience. Based on her own experiences as an entrepreneur, Chef Imoteda advises to “not listen to the ‘yes men’ but pay attention to what the ‘nay sayers’ think when starting a business. You can use negativity to push yourself to grow”. Chef Imoteda does not suggest that support is not important but it is necessary to recognise where you are lacking and to improve in these areas. Constructive advices can go a long way in the business world. I think what one can take away from Chef Imoteda’s story is that to succeed one does not always have to work in the “conventional” sectors such as medicine or law. It is important that we continue to recognise individuals that have made a path for themselves in industries that were previously considered outside the box.
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