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An Interview With The Founders Of The Nigerian Tapas Lounge

Black Ballad sat down to talk to the creators of Chuku’s, a brand new Nigerian Tapas Lounge. The founders, Emeka and Ifeyinwa, are siblings whose extensive travels led to create an innovative dining experience for Londoners.

Chuku’s comes from a place of passion for Nigerian cuisine, but also a deep appreciation for the culture which the duo wants the world to experience!

BB: Can you tell us about yourself?

Emeka: I am the big brother and co-founder of Chuku’s. I’m half-Nigerian, half-Grenadian, brought up in the Essex East-London area (Ilford) and for the last couple of years, I’ve been spending my time working as a strategy consultant in the city and spending my free time training for triathlons and other sporting activities.

Cooking has always been a passion and interest; from a very young age I’ve always wanted to be a chef and I remember myself and Ifey (Ifeyinwa) cooking up some interesting things! Somewhere along the line of going to boarding school and university, I lost the interest in cooking. But I was always interested in food and thought about how Nigerian food could be mainstream within the UK and introducing Nigerian food to my friends who, for the most part, are not from the Nigerian diaspora.

It wasn’t until I went away to live out in Spain, where I had time to myself to fall back in love with cooking. I also had the opportunity to fall in love with the tapas culture; taking time out of your day and the social dining aspect of it.

When I came back to the U.K, it made sense to pair that dining style with Nigerian food.

Ifeyinwa: I’m a recent graduate from Cambridge where I studied Classics. After I graduated, I went away to Martinique in the Caribbean where I was teaching English and then went to do the same thing in France. I’ve just recently returned and now I‘m working on Chuku’s full-time!

BB: How did you come up with the name?

Emeka: Chuku’s is actually taken from my name; my full name is Chukwu-Emeka and that means ‘God has done well.' We’ve taken the prefix of that, Chuku’s meaning the higher power in the Igbo language.

From the beginning, having a name that has a powerful meaning was quite important to us.

Ifeyinwa: For those that aren’t familiar with the name, we removed the ‘w’ and anglicised it.

BB: What was the inspiration for the menu? Were home-cooked favourites from your childhood a feature?

Ifeyinwa: A lot of our home-cooked favourites do feature; it’s just not necessarily in the same form. The menu is inspired from the cooking experiences and memories from our childhood, but also very much inspired by the fact that we are part of the diaspora. We’ve travelled a fair bit and we were inspired by the places that we visited, so that’s reflected in our menu. For example, we do a yam tortilla, which is taken from the Spanish tortilla. Likewise Emeka and I are big fans of Quinoa, so instead of jollof rice we did jollof quinoa.