Chef Ehis is a chef, culinary artist ad kitchen consultant who has built a name for himself working assiduously for over a decade. He is the founder of Ehis Gourmet and the co-founder of Ehis Centre for Culinary Arts (ECCA)
The tenacity of his work was once again displayed in 2019 when he won the Soup-A-Star Celebrity Cooking Competition. For Chef Ehis, his story to Nigerian youths and budding entrepreneurs is laced with handwork, skill, and creativity on full display. Not for one day has he rested on the previous day’s success, he continues to push for more. The opening of his new centre in Ikeja is simply just the beginning. Diadem Akhabue sat down with Chef Ehis to tell his inspiring story.
Current role: Chef Instructor, ECCA Lagos
Location: Ikeja and Ajah
Want to be remembered for: For adding immutable value
Tell us how you started out and how you got to where you are today?
It is all about discovery, passion and knowing what you are meant to die for. For me, it is particularly about what I am willing to die for. This is what I have been doing for sixteen 16 years. I discovered it because I have a foundation in cooking and I also saw that I love to cook
What time do you wake up and what time do you love to be at your desk?
I don’t have a proper sleeping time. I generally sleep for 3-4 hours every day and I am up at about 5am detailing my activities for the day
Give us a rundown of your daily routine?
I wake up in the morning, check Instagram for beautiful pictures of what others are doing to draw inspiration, draw a concept and of course have a cup of coffee ( this is very important). I also go to teach my culinary classes with a lot of passion. When I am back I usually just make something or check through the internet for other inspiring plates
How do you keep track of your daily routine?
First, you have a priority list. A priority list is a list you design, listing out all you want to achieve for the week, break them down into 7 days in a week, break them down into a day. For a day, break down what you want to achieve into smaller syllables and wake up each day with a burst of energy to take down your task. As you complete each task, you can tick them off the list that is what I do.
Tell us about one of the toughest situations you have found yourself in business?
There are a couple of them. Situations when you are trying to give someone the best but people don’t even rate it or appreciate it. Some people go as far as saying ‘I will not pay you’. So, clients that don’t pay are also a tough situation. But I think the toughest or most difficult situation is not making money for a long time, the passion keeps drying up
What is the best business or career advice you’ve ever received?
Thankfully, I have not received a lot of business advice. When I wanted to start my culinary school, a lot of people came to me with negative vibes, saying I need a lot of money to start, I am going to fail. For me, it was just a beginning and I had to push above the bad advice. I, however, got a lot of positive advice and energy from a successful culinary school owner and master chef, my mentor, Jamie Oliver.
What conventional life or business advice do you disagree with?
I disagree with failure. I never believe that businesses can fail. I believe you going to try, ou going to learn everything to make sure that business survives because that is your passion. You only fail if you give up on it if you don’t have the potential or skill. My advice is to get the skills and be the best.
If you had to start all over again, what would you do differently?
First, I will set up my culinary school on the Mainland. My strategy was to set up on the Island because most of the restaurants are on the Island. But if I had to start over again I won’t do that. I will also keep into customer service and make use of the global market that is social media. I will also be more committed to work.
Tell us about your current role and key traits required to succeed in this role.
I am a chef instructor at ECCA Lagos, I run a corporate catering firm, I also do fine dining, restaurant opening. I write content on our pages and social media manager. I also do consultations for chef outsourcing. To survive in this hectic environment I found myself, I learned that you have to be able to forgive, you also have to be current. Keep studying, keep doing research
Tell us about a task you dislike but still do and a problem you’re still trying to solve?
I will dislike if you take me out of the kitchen for too long. The kitchen is my comfort zone, I love it so much
Who has had the greatest impact on your career, and why?
It has to be my mentor Chef Oliver. Even when I was not making money for a couple of years running a culinary, even when I had to stop my job offshore or when I had to go back to school(Unilag) to be a graduate, he was a drive. A lot of people hated me for my decisions but he was still there. Looking at him for just 5 minutes alone gives me so much motivation to keep pushing.
What business achievement are you most proud of?
Founding ECCA Lagos makes me so proud and I am also proud of Ehis gourmet we create the finest dishes
Tell us about your greatest weakness as an individual.
I love practical cooking, I talk a lot but I am not good at paperwork. I am prudent with spending but keep track of spending or any form of administrative work is a weakness.
Name two untapped lucrative business opportunities in the world, right now.
In Africa, a lot of things are untapped. We have not created a lot in Africa. The hospitality industry is largely untapped, tourism centres, recreation centers, consultation for chefs is untapped. I look forward to vibrant individuals take over
Aside from God, what do you consider your greatest success secret?
My mother and Chef Oliver
You are becoming a celebrity chef, featuring on Soup-A-stars, tell us about the experience?
The experience was so great. I was absolutely amazed. I was going to win anyway. I actually prepared a lot, I profiled the people I was competing with. I researched, I went out to get the news styles of plating, shell coconut and a whole lot of things. The result was a magnificent tasting dish. I prepared a lot and I also did not want to disappoint my fans and those watching. I also did not want to disappoint my friends, Chef Freqz. They kept saying why are you on this show, you are supposed to be a judge but thank God I won.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?
I currently watch more of food-related content, chefs around the world. I also watch UFC, the likes of Kamaru, Adesanya, Anthony Joshua. Those guys are absolutely brilliant.
What tools, gadgets, or apps can’t you do without?
What’s your favourite social media platform, handle, and why?
Instagram because it serves as a storage for my work, Facebook as a means for advertisement and LinkedIn as a medium to meet top players in the industry
How do you unwind?
I do not go out a lot. I just cook or bake something nice and enjoy it myself. I am not one of those chefs that doesn’t eat his food, I enjoy eating my food and I also watch movies.