As I walk through Portobello Market, I can't help but think of Notting Hill Carnival and what it stood for - united cultures, good vibes, vibrant music, dazzling costumes and most importantly; the flavoursome food.
Sitting in a quiet coffee shop opposite the street food vendors setting up to trade is when I converse with born and raised West Londoner of Ghanaian heritage, Jason Obeng, founder of Jason’s Little Kitchen - a supper club serving nourishing West African food; Ghanaian style .
Jason has been running his business little over 7 months, which is remarkable as it has the feel of such a seasoned business. From the beginning from our conversation, Jason lets it be known to me, “I really want West African Cuisine to be number one in dining experience in the world.”
Ingredients, cooking techniques, branding and marketing will prove pivotal in the challenge for West African food to become number one. This is an important aspect Jason understands and is apparent in the way he connects with his customers. From his clever website illustrations, social media pages, logo and photography; he wants to open the door of opportunities for West African cuisine, and his speciality being Ghanaian food as a dining experience to the world.
Jason opted to stay away from the popular and proven successful street food route, “I have my vision and I’m steady in my path.” He wants to offer his customers a holistic dining experience, from the moment you enter his supper club, his mission is to take you through an enjoyable and memorable experience - from the food to the drinks.
“I have connected with an independent wine merchant, Edgmond Wines, where we pair South African wine with my meals. The wines are exclusive to my events. This gives my customers a taste of rare and award winning wines that they would not be able to get anywhere else in London.”
Jason’s love for food stems back to his early teens - “When I was 14 there was a period when I would be in the kitchen with my mum nearly everyday - and cooking literally everything.”And it has always been an ambition of his to start a business, which he attributes to his Father.
The ‘eureka!’ moment occurred after an innocent conversation, “I was speaking to a friend of mine and we were talking about African restaurants to go to and I realised there wasn’t one in London that was up to standards as some other the other restaurants serving other cuisine were. Then I said to myself, I’m going to create my own?”
Jason was aware that he never had the finances to open the type of restaurant he wanted straight away but that didn’t hinder his vision. Jason was determined to leave employment to carve out his dynasty, “I remember sitting down thinking - I can’t be waiting till I’m older to start this like everyone was telling me to. I have to give this a shot now - I went home and registered Jason’s Little Kitchen as a business instantly.”
So far, Jason has had 5 supper clubs, and the most recent one was at the prestigious venue, ‘The Chancery’. “With each supper club I always try to bring something to new, I learn from the customer responses to my food and experience.” Jason understands he will not be able to please everyone’s taste buds, but in utilising customers feedback, that's his way of developing his business and doing his utmost to make West African food appeal to the masses.
With the support of his family, he was able to grow from strength to strength in a very short period. “I dropped out of university and my mother was not impressed at all- she was adamant that I should go back. Now she has seen what I have created, she is proud and can now can see the vision too.”
Jason believes West African cuisine is far from where it can potentially be but is aware of the big strides it's made in the past couple years. “I was really impressed by Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen; I believe she was the main protagonist to open minds for West African cuisine in London and I’m happy for what she has done in bringing awareness to Ghanaian food to people who might not have considered it before.”
Speaking to Jason opened my eyes, I began to take note of my surroundings and notice the multiple West African takeaways and small restaurants around; highlighting the renaissance of West African cuisine. The only thing that's is missing is a few more fine dining establishments which we truly take the movement to another level.
Before we ended our conversation, I asked him what is your favourite dish? He responded,“Rice and stew”. We both burst into laughter as it is well known fact that family members in most African households are programmed to eat rice and stew as soon as you can chew.
Like Jason’s Little Kitchen on Facebook to keep updated with his next supper club on the 30th April 2016, or simply visit www.jasonslittlekitchen.co.uk
Subject - Jason Obeng, founder of Jason's Little Kitchen
Writer & Photographer - @Kofi Dwaah