Food and culture are joined at the hip all over the world and we were excited to meet a Hephzibah – a Nigerian who has brought Continental African cuisine to Kenya. We spent a few minutes with her and here is what she had to say.
Your name please and what you do?
My name is Hephzibah Osinubi though I’m known more as Hephie. I’m a chef and an entrepreneur and I run Hephie’s Cloud Kitchen.
How does Hephie’s Cloud Kitchen work?
Hephie’s Cloud Kitchen is about fusing African culture and the rich cuisines that the world needs to know about. I set out to get involved in promoting the culture and the food by launching Hephie’s Cloud Kitchen and then I fused it with the cloud technology model which is a lighter and more technology-inclined model of running a restaurant especially now that we are in the middle of the pandemic.
We started out centered around West African food and we have now grown to cater to the demands of clients who want great tasting food from other regions in the African continent. We have chefs in the team from different African cultures and backgrounds. They all work with me when cooking and serving our customers these meals from our culturally diverse menu.
What informed the starting of Hephie’s Cloud Kitchen here in Kenya?
I moved to Kenya in 2019 and I discovered that relationships between Nigeria, Kenya, and other parts of Africa could be further leveraged by showcasing the synergy and diversity of our different cultures. Food and entrepreneurship was how I knew to do that. I fused both together and here we are today.
Are you able to get all the ingredients locally? Or you have to import some from West Africa?
I have to import from West Africa and any other part of Africa where the dishes are from. We have Senegalese cuisine, we have Ethiopian dishes, and we always make sure that we get the necessary ingredients for particular foods.
As much as there are West African shops in Nairobi, they only focus on the popular foodstuff. You can get certain ingredients but if I want to make the food as authentic as possible, I always ship in. There are some ingredients that are perishable, or their fresh form is better than preserved or treated. So, I bring them in either weekly or bi-monthly to make the food as fresh and original as possible.
How is Kenya’s acceptance of West African food so far with Hephie’s Cloud Kitchen?
I would say really good. Even though I started out having mostly Nigerian customers, because as a community we really like supporting each other. I would say that because of the core intention when I started out the business, I now have a strong non-Nigerian customer base.
Nigerians were not my core customers. They appreciate the food. They know this is how it should taste, this is how it tastes, and they love that authenticity. But I’m also trying to educate Kenyans and people from other parts of Africa on these foods.
As much as I have a strong Nigerian customer base, I have the non Nigerians who are excited to try these dishes so that they can understand and appreciate these foods better. There are people who have specific diets like Keto, Paleo and Vegan and I tailor dishes around these needs.
What’s the fastest moving meal in your menu and why do you think this is the case?
Oh Jollof. I try to push other foods in people’s faces but Jollof has its own vibe to it.
What’s your favourite Kenyan meal?
Nyama choma, chapati and stir-fried cabbage.
What is your dream for the future of Hephie’s Cloud Kitchen?
What I see is a technology-enabled business that can cater to a culturally diverse crowd. To have African food and culture as globally accepted as possible. Once you step out of Africa, there is the rap that our food gets either Kenyan or Nigerian. The way they talk about Italian food for example is like its gold or diamonds. Even if you are not from that country, you really want to eat that food because it has been marketed to you.
For me I want to market African food wherever its from, on a global scale. It is what our forefathers ate, and it is what we eat. we love it so much that even when we go to other countries, this is the food we look for. We can compete on a global level with these other cuisines. We just need to develop that sense of pride in our food and culture and be able to export that on a global scale.
You have unique working styles like the incorporation of events. How does that work?
This is along the lines of promoting the business and promoting the food. We host monthly food mixers where we have different African foods on the menu. It’s a fixed menu where people come and enjoy the whole course either as a buffet, three course meal, five course meal or seven course meal based on what we are presenting for that day. We also have drinks pairing.
It is a networking event as much as it is a food mixer and cultural event. We do that once a month and we also have smaller events in between. We also host people who want to have events themed around food. We cater to weddings, birthdays, bridal showers, and housewarming. But the core thing for us is still the food and the culture. This brings a whole different vibe to the events.
How can people get in touch with you?
We have our website (www.hephiescloudkitchen.com), and we are also on Instagram and Facebook as Hephie’s Cloud Kitchen. People can order online from web or our social media pages, by phone calls and Whatsapp. We are open 24/7.