In today’s world where most gifted hands in Africa are leaving the continent in droves, there are still some who are staying behind to create meaningful impacts despite the challenges.
One of them is Tolulope Erogbogbo, popularly known as Chef Eros. The celebrity chef, who calls himself The Billionaire Chef, is a professional chef, who is passionate about putting Nigerian food on the world map.
His passion for the food and hospitality industry has led him to create some thriving food and restaurant brands.
Some of them include; Eros & Gomets Foods, Ile Eros Restaurant in Lagos, Cookie Jar Bakery and other food ventures in Nigeria.
The unique thing about Chef Eros is how he tells the African culinary story to the world, using his exciting menu creations. He attributes the feat to the fact that he is proud of his African heritage, history and culture.
That unique storytelling took centre stage recently in Los Angeles, United States of America, where Chef Eros thrilled his guests with ‘Eko Re’, a passionate tale of African cuisine, composed and curated in a 7-course tasting experience by the Nigerian international chef, using food as his preferred channel of expression, while leaving the diners mesmerized.
Yet, the African culinary exposition took place in a picturesque setting of whimsical displays of zesty culinary techniques, gastronomic intelligence, musical entertainment and storytelling.
The creation was exclusively for the finest palettes and connoisseurs, amid excitement and selling of Nigerian culture with soft power.
The Ikorodu, Lagos-born chef in his early 30s, started his first ever venture into food at the age of 13 years when he started selling cheese balls. He continued while in the United Kingdom for his degree in International Business Management. He was nicknamed the ‘chicken guy’ because he started a chicken business over there.
“I have always been intrigued by the process of creating culinary experience, which is what I have set out to do over the last 15 years of being in the industry in Nigeria. My main objective is to deliver an unforgettable Nigerian culinary experience,” he said.
He is excited that the food industry is becoming big in the country, amid creating huge opportunities for people. That is also the reason his business and others are growing despite the economic realities in the country.
“Food is one of the fastest growing industries at the moment. Food is one of those three things that no human being can live without. You cannot live without shelter, clothing and food,” he said.
On the employment potential, he noted that with the difficulty in getting funding to set up a business, the food business is one of the fastest businesses one can start with little or no capital.
Looking at his very meagre seed capital, and the multi-million naira company his outfit has become today, Chef Eros insisted that the food business is the easiest way to create employment, value and wealth.
For those who are out of a job, or are not getting enough in their present jobs, Chef Eros advised them to start a food business and start the delivery with their friends.
“Before you know it, orders will be coming. There is enough space for everyone. We are a country with a population of about 200 million people. People need food. The demand is really huge,” he said.
But he warned that it takes passion for food and the business to be successful.
Of course, the feats he has achieved with the chains of restaurants under the Eros brand today did not come very easy.
He failed at a point and that was what he needed to become more focused and passionate about building his food business.
La Cusion, his first project in Ikoyi, Lagos, did not do well, but it set the tone for the success of subsequent businesses.
“I realised that within every passion, there is a challenge. What separates each person’s passion from another is how much attention and dedication he gives to it,” he explained.
For him, the success nugget is beyond having passion. When you combine passion with hard work and opportunity, Chef Eros assures you that you will succeed.
Even with his feats so far, Chef Eros is still focused.
The focus for him is running authentic Nigerian restaurants with a modern twist, hence Ile Eros, according to him, is not a fusion restaurant.
“We are not a restaurant that fuses Nigerian food with Italian, Chinese, French or Spanish foods. We are a restaurant that takes authentic Nigerian foods, be it from the street or from your grandmother’s pot and gives them a modern twist, usually in the preparation and in the presentation,” he explained.
“For example, we take your classic street food such as Ewa Agoyin, cook and serve it with so much love. We can serve you beans and garri in a twisted way”.
Chef Eros is not leaving the country. He would rather stay back to help build it through his passion for food.
He is building a food brand that is going to be one of the biggest food and beverage companies in the world.
“Every time I go to bed, I imagine our skyscraper edifice in Eko Atlantic, overlooking the water with all our businesses on different floors. The vision pushes me,” Chef Eros concluded.