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Community Spotlight –Jokè Bakare

By Wesley Emmott

Adejoké ‘Joké’ Bakare is a Nigerian-born chef, the founder and owner of West African restaurant Chishuru. Originally a home cook hosting dinner parties and supper clubs, she launched last in Brixton.

Wesley: What was it like first starting out with supper clubs?

Adejoke: It was almost a continuation of having people come to my house on the off days just to eat. It wasn’t anything structured because it was almost the same type of people who were coming to the house, but now they were paying and the new guests would bring friends so that was how it was for a while because. It was just a pleasure to cook really, it wasn’t that I made any money from it or anything.

W: You opened last year, what made you decide it was the right time at that point?

A: I won a competition and part of it was to have a space rent-free for six months. It was in 2019 and before the pandemic started. When units became available I just approached the landlords and they said that if I felt it was a good time to start, that they were willing to give me a vacant unit.

W: What would you say that you enjoy most about hospitality?

A: Introducing people to my food, hearing people wonder about it and be attracted. We operated as if you came into our home because of how the place was set up. It’s just like you’re visiting us and we’re able to take care of you. That’s the part I love about hospitality, the fact that somebody can come and you’re able to make them forget whatever’s been happening to them before, they have a nice couple of hours with you, good food, good music, and that camaraderie with the team that you’ve got. We’ve been lucky really with the team that we have.

W: In five year’s time, how would you like to have evolved yourself or your career?

A: I would like to be able to make West African foods slightly mainstream. That’s my goal, get more people from my community to see hospitality in a different light, being able to showcase other parts of West African food, really.

W: How would you describe the influence of West African food?

A: Well for me I can see hints of West African food in Latin American food, in South American food, in the Caribbean so yes and because of the dishes that we make and what we’re doing it leads people to think a bit more directly. Funny thing is that some people from Asian communities have come and have seen similarities with their own food. We use basically the same ingredients and the only difference is in the spices.

W: And what’s your favourite dish on the menu at Chishuru?

A: Gosh, the thing is we change the menu regularly, we’ve only got two staples on the menu, which have been the goat Ayanese and Ekuru which is a black-eyed bean and wild watermelon dish.

W: What’s the biggest challenge in your life and how was it overcome? It can be related to food and hospitality or it can be completely separate from that.

A: My biggest challenge, I’m still trying to overcome it. Just that asking, the food, is it good enough? The constant checking because I’ve come from a totally different background, don’t have any experience whatsoever in the kitchen and it’s been gratifying how people have accepted it but it’s that constant thing in the back of my mind. The insecurity of it being good enough, and the food being acceptable.

W: What’s been the single most important piece of advice given to you?

A: The most important piece of advice I think has been “stop over-analysing things”. I will think things like “oh am I sure the portions are right?” You’ve got to focus on what you’re doing, and I’m still trying.

To find out more, visit the Chishuru website here.