Rising star Tolu Erogbogbo is bringing heat to Nigeria’s gourmet food scene. The in-demand chef runs artisanal bakery Cookie Jar and has cooked for some of the world’s biggest names, including Lauryn Hill. His love of food is how Chef Eros got his name, and passion is the fuel that drives him still.
We sit down with Erogbogbo to talk love, food and business.
Let’s start with some quickfire questions: Gordon Ramsey or Jaime Oliver?
Tolu Erogbogbo: “Gordon Ramsey.”
Eat in or dine out?
TE: “Eat in.”
Cakes or cookies?
What is food for you?
TE: “Food is my own language, it’s a way of communicating. For me putting those ingredients together, the textures, the flavors, and someone putting it in their mouth, even if you don’t understand the flavor, your reaction is what I love the most. I just love to see their faces. That’s food enough for me, so most times when I cook I don’t eat. That’s because I’m eating so much already by just watching them enjoy it. It really is a true passion.”
How can Nigerian cuisine develop?
TE: “We’re such a flavorful people that the moment we start to style better, or we start to style our food better, our food will probably be one of the top in terms of taste and flavor. Food styling is pretty much making food look good. People eat with their eyes first.”
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How did you prepare to start your business?
TE: “Studying international business management obviously has helped me carve my business in the way I have because I’m always thinking of the international market and doing things to international standards and affected by the economic factors, the social factors, the political factors. All those things all joined together basically helped us carve this business into more than just a home baking business – which is what is was – into a full blown organization with a whole lot of people working for us.”
What has your family taught you?
TE: “[My father] was a huge supporter of anything I wanted to do. He was all about making sure that whatever you do make sure it makes you happy. It should be something that you will be proud of and that will leave a legacy, which is what I’m trying to do.”
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What example do you provide for other entrepreneurs?
TE: “Even out of one little dream you can create the impossible. What is the impossible? The idea that you can start something, [it] could be tiny ribbons on a box, could be turned into a multi-billion dollar industry and a multi-billion dollar company. No matter what it is that you think you want to do or can do… keep your eye on the ball and do not deviate.”
What advice would you give to budding chefs?
TE: “Stay true to yourself, be original, do what you love to do, cook what you love to cook, cook what you love to eat.”