If you’re looking for a great event to attend this summer, you should check out Travelling Dishes from Aunty Dupe’s Buka. Musing with Mo was very lucky enough to sit down with the founder and creator of Aunty Dupe’s Buka, Dupe Adedeji and here is what she had to say.
In your own words could you describe what Aunty Dupe’s Buka is all about and what Travelling Dishes is also about?
Aunty Dupe’s Buka is all about my love for cooking and hosting people. Travelling dishes is the avenue I am using to promote Nigerian food to a larger and more diverse audience such as Canadians and other non-Nigerians. It also involved bringing the food to different places such as a more contemporary and corporate audience. It is about making food mobile and more accessible. To publicize Nigerian food to people outside of Nigeria.
How did you come up with the name and inspiration behind the brand?
Aunty Dupe’s Buka is a name that was coined by my family and friends when I moved to Edmonton about four years ago. I have always enjoyed cooking and have always had a flair for cooking, so when I moved and started posting pictures of the food I made on my Snapchat and Instagram page I would get comments from family and friends both online and in person about the images. I then started tagging my food pictures with the name #AuntyDupesBuka. The business Aunty Dupe’s Buka became more official in March 2019. Things just seemed to click for me. As I stated I always knew I liked cooking for people, getting people together and entertaining them and this was something I saw was slightly lacking in my environment, especially being new to the city and all. Therefore, with the encouragement from my followers and friends, I saw an opportunity and decided to go for it.
The term ‘Buka’ in the name refers to a local eatery back home in Nigeria. For me, Nigerian cooking is a whole experience which consists of eating and lots of conversations with total strangers over good food. Thus, the ‘Buka’ in the name represents the fun and lively atmosphere we hope to create rather than the ‘Mama Put’ type of restaurant.
How did you go about starting your brand?
Firstly, I ensured to carry out extensive research. I started googling and researching on how to get certified which I did. Research is something you really must do if you really want something. It was great having people reach out to me for example when CBC contacted me to cover our first ever tasting event with Travelling Dishes. However, the preliminary research is so important because it gives me a picture and a vision in my head which I can then follow and attempt to bring to reality. So, I knew that getting my license and all the legal stuff sorted would be necessary if I planned to go mainstream. So, I looked into getting insurance and registering the business and all that. Once that was ready, I started reaching out to people who could help me advertise and learning how to use social media as a driving tool. I was quite fortunate that I had a great support with people sharing and re-sharing to promote the business.
But I still had to do my research and google how to promote. I had to connect with local bloggers, business marketers and people with influence. One thing I discovered when reaching out to people was the importance of having the idea clear in my mind. For example, when I first reached out to the Edmonton Journal, I didn’t have a fully fleshed out story, but I had an idea and a concept which I was able to pitch to them. Ultimately. you must be fearless about your brand and your business. I mean there were some people I contacted who didn’t really respond but in with that I kept going. Now that I have something going then I can follow up with people and they can also follow up with me. Lastly, lots and lots of prayer was necessary!
What would you say is the goal and vision for Aunty Dupe’s Buka?
Aunty Dupe’s Buka hopes to change the perception of Nigerian food, to reflect what I personally aim to achieve within my circle of friends and family which is to showcase the whole experience associated with Nigerian food. The amazing food, the great ambiance and the plenty of fun and laughs. I would really like to showcase the variety in Nigerian dishes and its rich culture and bring this to a large scale. Our food is really good and we have a lot to offer.
What is the role of ‘Travelling Dishes’ within the vision for Aunty Dupe’s Buka?
Travelling Dishes is an initiative I started because I looked around Edmonton and saw that Nigerian food wasn’t really being highlighted as it should. I had always liked cooking for people and hosting and although I didn’t see that happening around me, I knew of people both personally and online who were travelling around the world showcasing Nigerian food. Yet I wanted to see Nigerian food promoted beyond our kitchens and our homes and for it to be a cuisine we can see at corporate events. Travelling dishes is a fun and marketable way to expose people to Nigerian food as well as get non-Nigerians somewhere where they can taste Nigerian food. There currently isn’t a Nigerian restaurant that I could recommend to friends or colleagues who ask me about Nigerian cuisine. Once our food tours are over, we will need to start planning on how to keep the momentum going by perhaps hosting cooking classes and corporate demos.
What has been your most loved dish so far and what’s your favorite thing about trying out your recipes ?
A lot of Nigerian dishes take a lot of time and effort. However, I always try to make the recipes with my own flair and adding my own flavor. I try my best to simplify the recipes while keeping it authentic. To some extent trying to westernize the Nigerian dishes. From our last dining event, people really loved the chicken pepper soup. The audience were largely 50% Nigerian 50% Non-Nigerian and they all unanimously loved the soup. I think this was because I made the chicken broth without overburdening the soup with spices. That perfectly describes my cooking style which is to let the dish (chicken in this case) taste authentic and only using the traditional Nigerian spices to complement the taste.
Who are your biggest food inspirations?
One of my favorite inspirations whom I started following at the start of university was @dooneyskitchen. I had gotten bored with food and started experimenting with traditional recipes and such. I really liked her style and particularly her abundance of knowledge on the different types of ingredients and how to make each one work for you. With that, I have also tried to combine set recipes with an ingredient I see present in the western world. For example, my zobo (hibiscus) ice cream recipe was inspired by my love for the strawberry refresher drink from Starbucks. I started to think ‘How can I make it Nigerian?’ and I tried it different ingredients until I found a combination I really liked. Dooneyskitchen offered me an eye opening experience for me and encouraged me to challenge the norm from a typical Nigerian recipe.
Another inspiration for me is the Miami based, self taught chef from Venezuela, @itszoekelly. Her story is quite inspiring because she was an average person who started cooking when she fell into depression. I love her authenticity and how she brings her Latino culture into her dishes. Every single menu she has includes some of her cultural identity in it and that greatly inspires me. When I first started, I had contemplated simply doing western dishes and I had to teach myself to live my truth. She inspired me to infuse my Nigerian culture into my dishes and to share it with others. She gave me that inspiration to display your identity through my food.
On the business side, people like @chefevelyn really inspire me. She shows me that there is so much more to being a chef. She has a lot of YouTube videos where she gives information on behind the scenes activities and shows the entrepreneurial side of cooking and how to actually make money in the food business. Your passion can also make you some money.
Lastly, what advice would you give to others wanting to start their own business or initiative just like you did?
My advice to anyone is to try out whatever it is you are interested in, even if you’re unsure. Beyond just cooking, when you put your effort into something, doors start to open for you. People will want to help you once they see the effort you have put in and the hard work you are investing. Always do your research beforehand and then just do it! Don’t leave things by the side or be passive. For me, I found People became interested in things going on behind the scenes because they could relate to the story and they would then help me spread the word. When you really want something, have the drive and passion. Just go for it!
The next tasting event will be taking place on Saturday July 27th 2019, you do not want to miss out on this amazing experience! Tickets sold until July 25th