'We have differences [but] the more we look into those differences and explore it, we will find common points'

The Staff Canteen

Sally Abé and Adejoké Bakare discuss the different paths to being a chef and what it feels like to be reviewed

In the most recent episode of Grilled by The Staff Canteen co-host Sally Abé, from The Pem, was joined by Adejoké (Joké) Bakare, chef-owner of Chishuru, a West African restaurant in Brixton.

Joké is a relatively new chef on the scene as she only opened her restaurant, Chishuru, in September 2020 and had to close it only 6 weeks later. Then, due to lockdown restrictions, the restaurant wasn’t open again properly until May.

Reviews: the Good, the bad, and the Ugly

Shortly after Chishuru opened, in 2020, Joké was reviewed by Jay Rayner which was an adrenaline boost for the new restaurant.

She said: “I have to say thank god for the Jay Rayner piece. It did quite a lot for us, to be honest, because we still get people coming in based off of that. That was in 2020. We still get people coming in and saying to us 'oh, I read that Jay Rayner piece, that's the reason why I've come.'

“He was so gracious and so kind in how he wrote, and he understood where we were coming from. Because he came when we were still like a newly hatched chicken - we were still finding our feet - but he was really quite gracious in what he said.”

Both chef’s agreed that when you run a restaurant you put at least a little bit of yourself into it and because of that it can make criticism very difficult. Joké described it as “almost like a child.”

Sally agreed and said: “When you open a restaurant you put a part of yourself on the plate. You think about the dishes, and nothing is just there because you feel like it should be there, you've considered all the flavours and all the elements. Then if somebody doesn't like it it's quite heart-breaking.”

Which is why both chefs have had to develop a thick skin against negative reviews. 

"I think it's important across the board to stay subjective in terms of it's not whether you like or dislike something it's about how it's cooked and how it's seasoned and how it's presented," explained Sally. "I think that's the most important thing for me that I take away from reading reviews." 

The British Experience

Joké had quite a different path to becoming a chef-owner, technically still being a home chef before Chishuru opened. It was this journey which led to her agreeing to be a part of a panel put on by Be Inclusive Hospitality, where her and Sally first met.

She said: “Because of my journey and the fact that my kind of face is not really seen on the hospitality scene as much I thought, it would be good for young chefs or young girls coming up to see me and realise that you don't have to go through the traditional route to get to where I am and to get to do what I'm doing.”

Despite taking this different path, Joké still found it quite difficult, especially when she was starting out doing stages.

She described the British professional kitchen as “very male-dominated and testosterone-filled,” which led to her experience in some kitchens being less than positive.

It was difficult to the point that Joké said: “I think if I had gone through a traditional route, I would have found it really disheartening and would have left. I think, I am happy for the fact that I went through my own journey to get here.”

But she doesn’t feel negatively towards the industry, seeing these less as issues and more as learning and developing points. She said: “We have differences [but] the more we look into those differences and explore it, we will find common points.”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th June 2022

'We have differences [but] the more we look into those differences and explore it, we will find common points'