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What’s In That African Cuisine?


What’s In That African Cuisine?


African_CuisineThe hot October sun shines brightly above as I drive through Oju Olobun Street on Victoria Island. This neighbourhood is largely inhabited by corporate offices who are off from work because of the public holiday. However, there is a building on the road whose Yellow colour makes it stand out from the restaurant. It is the only building where activity is on top gear on an independence afternoon.

Yellow Chilli Restaurant and Bar is one of the top restaurants on the Island which has maintained its standard and quality since it opened its doors in 2004. Little wonder why people from all works of life who understand the importance. Seated at a table in the expansive lounge is Tolagbe Martins, an event entrepreneur and an ardent client of the restaurant. Her order  was Yellow Chili Yam Pottage Special. “I have an aunt who eats this throughout her stay whenever she visits the country,” she tells me. “Last month she was in Nigeria for two weeks and she ate the Yam Pottage Special throughout. She never got tired of it.”

Martins’ testimony attests to the calibre of clients who walk thorough the doors of the restaurant. In addition, a cursory look at other guests seated at the tables, shows that white, Caucasians, black, African American, top Nigerians who enjoy good life and food eat at Yellow Chilli.

“It’s a  very nice authentic Nigerian experience,” Martins adds, with polished, high end environment. So if you want to taste the authentic of egusi, if you want to have a proper taste of Igbo soup,  you can come here. If you want a proper prepared vegetable soup you can come here, in fact  everything good about food you will get it here. The restaurant  tries to keep original taste of food  as possible, They are good in preparing Nigerian dishes at a reasonable prize  in a short  time frame that is why I come here.”

Yellow Chilli is basically a full service kitchen outfit says Ebere Shogbola, the restaurant director. “We have set  out  to internationalise  Nigerian food nay African food but Nigerian food in particular. We also have what I will call a fusion menu, in the sense that, we have also introduced other dishes from other countries. We have some continental dishes on our menu therefore if anybody comes here  we can serve him anything he wants. We have an all inclusive menu not just Nigerian because some people might not  be so used to Nigerian foods.”

It is obvious with the cool beautiful interior that the management has created  a conducive  ambience for  customers to eat  traditional African food with home flavour in country where such is associated with local Bukas.

It is this home cooking flavour that has endeared Dafe Ivwurie, director,  24 Media to Yellow Chilli. “If I taste food from Yellow Chilli, he explains as he swallows a morsel of starch dipped in Banga soup, and I do not know that it was bought from Yellow Chilli  it is very easy for me to know that this is  Yellow Chilli. I think it is about the integrity  of the ingredient and standard . it has been consistent for the last five years that I have been coming here  to either eat  in house or buy  take away. I think it’s a  fantastic experience because you do not get too  many places really  where  you eat  in Lagos  where you  get that kind of standard consistently.”

In other to have a first hand experience, that afternoon, I treated myself to a bowl of Fisherman pepper soup, a seafood pepper soup, one of the special dishes created by Yellow Chilli. It is a combination of assorted seafood, such as fish, crab, prawn, squid and others deep in tasty tomato soup. It was indeed a tasty starter.  “A lot of our dishes have being engineered  by us,” Shogbola explains. Aapart from the normal dishes on our menu, we always try to introduce new dishes to keep the customers excited at the end, we are also working on introducing some health menus for our customers that are health conscious, you know as people grow older they become more heath conscious.”


Shogbola attributes the success of her brand to the commitment of her team who are always trained in-house to ensure total customer satisfaction. “It is about the people we have here. We have a manager who is very committed  and loyal. Also it is the combination of all our directors. We have had some excellent  staffs who have  just put in their best to ensure that we deliver on those areas.”

She also says the success of the brand could be traced to her ability to regulate the number of outlets she opens. “We do have plans for other outlets but in a business like this you need to be there. We don’t want to just have branches popping up  in  all areas and we cannot maintain them, that has always been our fear that is what we have always guarded against.  But as we have improved over the years, we have been  able to train more people. We believe that  we are ready to have our branches in other locations, its something we are working on.”

Yellow Chilli boasts of a main restaurant on the down floor,  a lounge bar upstairs and an outdoor, area where people can have barbeque. It is opened to customers as from 12 noon and the kitchen closes at 10pm , because the staff need to take some rest.

Shogbola trained as a lawyer yet she has abandoned her legal profession for her passion, cooking. “I have experienced a goal which I did not expect. I am very happy with what I have been able to achieve. I am from Cross River State and they are associated with good food. Growing up, I was known for preparing  good food, so I  continued with that as an adult. I just thought to myself why don’t I turn that into a business and that was how it started.”

At the heart of Yellow Chilli’s services are the customers. Hence it has put in place a Customer Loyalty Scheme. “Up  to this day we have had discounts to customers who are regular but whether we are going to maintain that is a decision we are yet to take. Customer Loyalty Scheme which enables customers save several units on our special payment card. The customer is free to allow his units to add up for as long as he wants. Then he can use it to order for any dish on the menu or any kind of drink he wants, it could be a champagne. In as much as the units are enough,” Shogbola says.

In addition, it also ensures the meals are well displayed to attract customers. For instance, it has stuck to the Africanness that is the hallmark of its trade. The meals are not garnished with tomatoes or cucumber by the side rather soups are served in traditional clay  bowl. With a proper ventilation customers can hardly perceive any soup odour. It is just a right place to have a good traditional Nigerian meal.

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