His name is Tolu, but everyone calls him Eros. He am the founder, CEO and Executive Chef at Chef Eros and Companies. His Journey as a chef started at the age of 19, when he took his first job at a restaurant in the UK. This singular act unknowingly started what would become his life’s passion. When he turned 21, he joined forces with his mother and a partner to start his first culinary project – a small café and restaurant in Ikoyi, Lagos called La Saison.
Now, he is the founder and CEO of the Cookie Jar Bakery, Executive Chef of Eros & Gourmet Foods and Founder and Executive Chef of one of the first chef owned Gourmet Nigerian restaurant, iLÉ EROS, a polished casual restaurant that celebrates Nigerian Cuisine. His culinary repertoire, knowledge, easy-going manner and charisma has earned him features in some global media outlets such as CNN Africa as the next big thing to watch, and Forbes, as “the man who knows what billionaires eat for lunch”. This has earned him the moniker “The Billionaires’ Chef”, some of whom are Dr. Mike Adenuga, Founder and Chairman of Globacom and Conoil, and Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Founder and Chairman of the Dangote Group. He has also had the opportunity to serve President Emmanuel Macron of France, Reverend TD Jakes, Lauryn Hill and many others. He speaks with Isaac Oladipupo in this interview. Enjoy!
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Tolulope Erogbogbo, I was born into a huge and complicated background actually. I spent my formative years with my mum and siblings in Benin before moving to Lagos after my secondary school education. I schooled for about a year in Lagos, and then moved overseas to study International Business Management after which I returned back to pursue my passion.
Nigeria today is bursting with divers kind of restaurants. What uniqueness stands LaSaison out of this crowd?
First of all, LaSaison is the only restaurant in the whole of Lagos, and even Nigeria, that offers you a fusion of four different continentals put together in one place. There’s nowhere that I know, as of now, that has such service in this country. The African menu is coming up soon and that’s where you’re going to see the division between all the different menu, when we are now going to divide the Europe from the America. Here, we never pre-cook our food, all our foods are cooked fresh as ordered. Another unique selling point is our location, we are just in the corner of Raymond Njoku which is just off Awolowo Road, heartbeat away from the centre of everything. We have such a beautiful lounge downstairs that sells amazing cocktails, and despite the fact that we are in the so called most expensive area, we also find a way to offer foods and drinks at ridiculously affordable prices. You can take our menu, do your survey, check against other restaurant, and you will almost never find any restaurant that can beat our prizes.
What are the basic services you offer at LaSaison?
The services we offer are basically classified into three: foods, drinks and pastries. However, it stretches out a bit because when it comes to food, there’s dinner service, breakfast service, launch service, delivery service, takeaway service, home service, and lately there’s a brand new service we now offer called The Chef Service.
Tell me about The Chef Service.
You’re actually the first to hear about the Call For A Chef Service, it’s a new service that we just come up with but haven’t launched. For instance, you’re having a birthday party and you don’t want to come to the restaurant, you want to do it at home. You can call for a professional chef to come into your kitchen and cook your food, and we’ll actually come with our waiters and cleaners to serve you. We bring the raw ingredients to your house and cook using your utensils, and we also bring our utensils when you don’t have enough. We did a similar service for Koko Mansion where some of the foods was pre-cooked here and taken over to the house for finishing. I actually ran that show, so I was the one doing the cooking of the food. And with this service, we have two options. You can either call for the service of any of my regular chefs here or call for me in person, and obviously that comes with some extra charge.
Where do you source your raw materials from?
The beautiful thing about Nigeria right now is that you can get almost everything here. We tend to go to supermarkets to source most of our items, we hardly go to the market to get any of our poultry related items because we’re not 100% sure of the preservation in between.
What range of clientele does LaSaison deal with?
Almost everybody, but not everybody, can come into LaSaison. Because whether you like it or not, there are certain packages that some people cannot afford, mostly because of where we are located and the overhead cost we run to deliver. We are very keen on good service and we attract a lot of entrepreneurs, business owners, celebrities, Europeans, Americans and the likes mostly because our food is good and our services are great. We also host a lot of events, luncheons, dinners, breakfast meetings, launch meeting and so on for radio stations, magazines, corporate bodies etc.
How would you rate your level of customer service?
To be honest, when I joined LaSaison, the three basic things I was passionate about offering was good food, good presentation and good services. So far, we’ve been able to fully achieve good food and good presentation but we found out that achieving excellent customer service has proven quite difficult. Although the service here isn’t bad, if it was we wouldn’t have the kind of clientele we have, but I’ll say I’ve only achieved 45% of the customer service I want to achieve. Mostly because the labour we get in Nigeria are very difficult to train and hold on to. When we spend a lot time and resources training staffs, then they start to misbehave and you have to let them go. And then you have to employ new ones and trains then all over again, and we’re not relenting in doing this. As we speak right now we have just signed a contract with a new manager who’s coming in to train our staffs all over again, and who’s actually staying in-house as opposed to leaving the staffs after training. So from henceforth you’ll start noticing a tremendous change.
How would you rate your environment and décor?
Sincerely, I would rate it 100%! Myself and my partner, Tosan Jemide, who happens to be a bigger version of me, know a lot about interior décor, and we did almost everything by ourselves, running midnight candles and all that to give it the world-class taste that you see here today. I actually project managed everything through construction, design, measurement and all that. I invested in research abroad, paid a fortune to see people’s kitchen, studied leading restaurants over there before coming here to create this.
Where do you see LaSaison in five years?
Five year from now LaSaison should be outside Lagos definitely, if not outside Nigeria. we’re looking to expand outside the metropolis, we’re actually doing some research on getting a branch in Abuja and on the mainland, and starting a Pan-African group. Eventually we’ll get to a point where we’ll start franchising around the world. That’s the plan.
What are you most passionate about?
I’m very passionate about running restaurants. Food has always been my passion and I actually don’t eat as much as I cook, I just love to watch people eat my food. Cooking for me isn’t just about preparing things that have already been done. I love to come up with more creative ways to combine ingredients to create an evolutionary food.
Who are the people you look up to in this career line?
There’s actually a long list of people I look up to in my career line, but to cut the list short, I’ll rather say Gordons Brown, for his creative abilities. And my mother for her ability to innovate items that are just out of this world, and I think my passion started from sitting with her while she created recipes. It is amazing how you can put things together to form something entirely new, and that’s what you find at LaSaison.
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