Cooking is my lifestyle – Oluwakemi Irinoye (Kea Caterings)
Irinoye Oluwakemi is the MD of Kea caterings. She is a young and vibrant cook, cooking is a profession and lifestyle to her. She is a strong member of JCI and a beautiful woman with African blood. Kea caterings recently had a chat with Whatsupibadan at her office… Stay with us.
Can we meet you Kea Catering?
I am Mrs Irinoye Oluwakemi Aka Kea Catering. I am the MD of Kea Caterings and also a Lecturer in Kea Academy. I am also the Managing Director (MD) of Libra Kitchen. I am a Project Management Professional (PMP) and also a very strong member of JCI.
What was your background like?
I am from Iwo in Osun state. I lived all my childhood at Ile-Ife, Osun state from the family of 5 which I am the 2nd child and the first girl. I schooled in Osun state, I attended Obafemi Awolowo University, I studied Agricultural Economics. My childhood was full of work and compulsory lifestyle of been a perfect woman. My mother is a disciplinarian. But I must say childhood is a history that is paying off now. Thank God that I was a part of it.
Why did you choose Kea catering and not any other name?
For me, naming my company was about meaning, depth, I prayed and researched for days looking for a name that encompasses what we want to do and stand for, the word KEA came into my mind. KEA is another way of writing the word ‘care’ which means ‘to cater’ and to cater is to be hospitable, it’s to take a load of worry off another. And so it makes perfect sense, we do not only cater to guests at an occasion, we also take a load of worry off our clients by providing all we can to make their event a memorable and sweet one.
Why Agricultural Economics and not food and nut?
I applied for another course instead I was offered Agricultural Economic, but I did not want to sit at home doing nothing so I decided to take it with Joy, but the truth was that I knew what I wanted and I know certificate can never take me there. So I decided to play along with education.
How did Kea Caterings started making History?
It all started when I was in 300l at OAU. I knew I had something that was different from the normal which was Kemi cooking and people loving it and wanting more. I had a dream and a vision; I thought that I could join my dream and my vision with starting a mission. So I decided to set the dream into a mission. I set on the Journey of Kea caterings in 2009 but registered in 2010 making Kea Caterings 7 years in business. I started catering for dinners, birthdays, welcome programs, and so on. Then after school I opened my restaurant at Ife, which ran for 18months which I closed it down when I got a Vitafoam contract and some other contracts.
Can we know a little about how it was when you started. Was it that easy?
Wait o… did you say easy? It was never easy when I first started, having to borrow equipment to cook, disappointments was always regular because it was always a small scale cooking, even at that students will not pay well. The only enjoyable part was that I always wanted to cook (I still though) and I love cooking. After the going got longer I started gathering my stuffs too. I decided to go and learn from different people the art of a Chef which was another journey.
Talking about another Journey, can you explain it better?
I had to leave Osun for Ibadan after thinking of where to start my life. I had to defer NYSC for few years because of my Restaurant which I could not leave. But after 18months of running it I got a job with Vitafoam for a nationwide tour which they needed a caterer to supply food to them from state to state, thereafter with Gtbank, then Ministry and so on. I have only worked as Kea caterings all my life till now. I decided to add more knowledge by going to Lagos to learn somethings. I learnt small chops at Ife, workshops in JCI, cocktail at Morgan Mixology at Lagos, cocktail at February 25 at Lagos, deserts at Merqhavens also at Lagos to mention but a few. I did not rely on traditional cooking alone. I am always open to learn more anytime any day even at leisure.
Oh really, since you trained in Lagos why didnt you stay back at Lagos? Why Ibadan?
I love Ibadan. After running my eatery for 18months I thought about everywhere in Nigeria but the only realest location was Ibadan in 2015. Lagos is too crowded and the lifestyle there is not even my dream. So, I chose Ibadan and decided to settle down here. As a new person in Ibadan, to be truthful Ibadan welcomed me with open hands. I met awesome people as well and I am not going anywhere yet neither will I forget Ibadan goodwill on judgement day.
Did you ever think of having a Job to start your business big time?
I had to talk to my mentor about this question. Then, I was even having challenges at that time but my mentor told me that I do not need it, that even people working have their challenges. So, joining work with catering will bring more challenges and my business will become double wahala for living body.
But events dont come every day, so how have you been able to cope with this?
Yes sure, back then that was the very first question I asked myself and that was one of the very interesting problem I solved. I mentioned this to my mentor who is a member of JCI, it was raised I the house and that was where green pasture set in. Someone introduced me to Libra Kitchen which was at underground at Agbowo Shopping complex, it has moved to Libra House on Agbowo express way, I then met with the CEO and I was offered a job as an MD at Libra kitchen which was in line with what I naturally do. So it was more like setting grounds and setting an awesome pace for me.
How do you cope with Libra Kitchen and Kea caterings?
Well, it is easy for me because Libra kitchen has its workers and one work must not disturb the other. I have my assistant here at Libra Kitchen, so whenever I am not around she takes charge. I get situation reports and updates and thanks for social media and gadgets, when there is an emergency, she places a call through to me and all is sorted out immediately. And then whenever Kea caterings has a job I carry everyone along days before the D-Day and we get enough things down.
Catering is all about timing. We work and live with time. If we are to deliver at 12:00pm we make sure we deliver before that 12:00pm. We have our waking up time, praying time, market time, washing and preparing time, cooking time and so on. But whatever we are doing we do not waste customer’s time which devalues any organization especially catering.
How did you get this Talent?
Everything traditional, I learnt it from my mother. As the first girl the whole house was on me. I woke every morning to cook and clean the house. I saw it as torture then but it is all paying off now. My mother is a perfectionist and a neat freak, so I was brought up with the mindset to be better than her. After few years I got used to it and I started loving it and seeing myself in it. All thanks to Mum for those days.
How has Ibadan’s response been to your business?
Well, Ibadan people’s responses at first weren’t encouraging at all. Ibadan people see themselves as families so once they have one satisfactory customer, introducing a new one will be very difficult. When I started out I had to go through different processes to get customers. And then age like I explained earlier. But once you have gotten them and you serve them right. Then you are on POINT!
What is your advice to Ibadan?
Ibadan people should stop settling for what they have, they should settle for standard and better things. Ibadan is an awesome place and beautiful people are there, but we need to start settling for the best and not for anything available
Caterers should put professionalism into work.
What is your Uniqueness as a caterer?
Kea catering’s unique selling point is our ability to deliver well and in time.
What are the challenges that you have faced?
The one major challenge over the years is Age– people feel I am young and inexperienced, they even tell me that I am not the one who cooked until they see me cooking. I mix dishes myself because if you want to remain good you have to keep cooking. Cooking is a function of your passion and smartness. Since I have known that age drives people away I have decided to always leave a perfect impression that drives people back.
Relocation was another challenge. Ibadan people do not like to change cooks, they believe in people that work for them. It was like I was starting all over.
Mediocrity of workers– Most people do not believe in things done professionally.
Customer’s attitudes- Many will tell you to over-manage for them. Some will not pay early enough; they will want to pay a day to event.
Who is your mentor?
My mentor is Marthy Steward- One of the biggest Chef’s in the world.
What are your weaknesses?
My weakness is holding on to peoples comment about me. I put it in mind a lot even if I deliver well and you have complained I take it to heart and think about it but over years I have been able to make my client satisfied. Quest for perfection is one thing I take seriously in life.
What is your greatest Achievement?
My greatest achievement is been able to give to the next generation what I have learnt and what I know. Also, consulting for people and been able to stand the test of time in the catering profession. I have also gained experience over the years by been a lecturer at Kea Catering Academy though I am not the CEO as it is owned by someone else. We have branches in Ife and Ibadan.
My Short term goal is to train tens of people and long term goal is to have a CHEF SCHOOL and not a catering school.
What are the major foods that you prepare yourself?
These are Vegetables, Egusi soup, Jollof rice, fried rice, desert, salad, ofada stew and so on.
Why should people look out for Kea Caterings?
We will never stop following the trends and we will never stop striving to be perfect. Simple and experienced is what is on our Logo- people should put that in mind and look out for our small chops that we will be selling to retailers soon. We also have exotic Ofada and sumptuous bake treats.
What is your advice to young people who are challenged out there?
One thing is challenges will always come. The stakeholders out there that we look up to have got one challenge or the other in a year, it is very normal but how you face these challenges matter a lot. Do not ever give up, start something from somewhere. Always look at the good part, if you are venturing into entrepreneurship because you own the business; you are in the wrong business if you do not know what you want. Discipline matters a lot, many CEO’s out there are there because they have once in their lives embraced discipline. You should have great people that will motivate you, see beyond your state or even Nigeria as people you look forward too. There is always a starting point and an ending.
What are Kea Catering social handles?
Kea Caterings is on IG- KeaCaterings
Mobile No- 08033670451
(Compiled By Olamide Michael)