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Why We Started The Jungle House – Salimat Alhassan

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Salimat Iluobe Alhassan is a trained chef with passion for the job. The London-trained chef started “The Jungle House” to prepare assorted meals for people from all walks of life.

In this interview she granted us, the passionate chef speaks on what motivates her as a chef and why “The Jungle House” will set the pace for the culinary industry in Nigeria.

Can we meet you?
My Name is Salimat Iluobe Alhassan. A Bsc holder from the University of Aston, Birmingham United Kingdom. I am the Co-founder and Executive Chef of “The Jungle House.” I am an indigene of Edo State and I have four siblings.

When and why did you decide to become a Chef?
Cooking has always been something I did for fun, I never really pictured myself taking this career path until I started a little catering business in my final year in the university. The business grew and the reviews were very positive so I began to discover further my deep love for culinary techniques and the science behind cooking. What started as a little university project has turned out to be a burning passion of mine to bring about a healthier country through food.

How did your family receive the news when you told them you wanted to become a chef, considering the fact that most parents want their children to be lawyers, doctors etc?
As we all know unconventional career paths could be a bit confusing. At first, when I told my parents I wanted to be a Chef, it met a bit of uncertainty on their part.
However, I was able to prove to them how financially rewarding it is and how passionate I was about it. Once they saw that they began to support me instantly. I am so grateful to have their support as I can always rely on them for counsel

Did you go to culinary school? If yes, which one — Or how did you learn the job?
I have always loved reading recipes and recreating them in my own way, this allowed me learn a lot of techniques on my own. I am an alumni of Red Dish Culinary Chronicles, where I sought to improve on my techniques.

What did you like best about your time in culinary school?
You get to try different kinds of meals from different aspiring chefs.

Why “The Jungle House?” Tell us about it, do you train aspiring chefs?
We came about the name “The Jungle House” through my desire to highlight my diversity. I thought to myself what best describe my diversity in cooking?” Then I thought of “The Jungle.”

“The Jungle” has different types of animals and trees and it is very diverse.
“The Jungle House” is a food development company with diverse interest in food content production, catering and food educational resources.

“The Jungle House” also owns the baguette sandwich brand 12 inch baguette.

What type of events do you cater for?
“The Jungle House” caters for an array of clients. Our menu is innovative and dynamic. Also, through our sandwich company we aim to serve a more diverse range of clients from kids to workers etc. Just give us a call and we are more than happy to assist you in setting up a memorable event.

How is the reception to chefs like in Nigeria?
Nigerian culture is developing our music, cloths and food are becoming mainstream and this has brought about a positive reaction to how chefs are perceived in Nigeria. The profession is getting a much desired attention.

Is there a chef you admire most and why?
I don’t have a Chef I admire. Maybe Jamie Oliver because of his love for exploring different cuisines. But I believe in staying true to myself. It is very easy to admire someone and want to be like him or her and copy everything he or she does. This can mislead you from your own unique potential because every chef is unique in his or her own way.

What is your signature cuisine?
Can’t stick to one, it is always changes.

So, you have a guest, she’s an American she has never been to Africa before, what are you whipping up for your guest?
Jollof rice and fried plantain.

Tell me about your most memorable outing as a Chef. (Any big name(s) you’ve made food for?
My first corporate gig was for Access Bank I was tasked to present a range of canapés. I recall staying up all night thinking of how best to please my client. With more practise these days, I stay awake, but not all night.

Tell me about your most embarrassing cooking moment.
Where I realised I didn’t know how to wrap a shawarma and I had to wrap about 100 shawarmas for students.

Would you spend more time cooking a food or bothering about how pleasing it is aesthetically ?
Both. People do eat with their eyes first. But I will also make sure the food is cooked to perfection no matter how long it takes.

When is your happiest moment at work?
When I’m creating new recipes

Where is your happy place?
My kitchen on the beach.

Where do you see Chef Sally and The Jungle House in the coming years?
I envision “The Jungle House as a company which will be at the forefront of the culinary industry in Nigeria and also the first full fledged food network in the country.

A message to young aspiring chefs?
Just be yourself. No one else can be you.

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS

What do you always avoid ordering on a menu?
Salad

What is your go to meal, when you’re low on time?
Fried yam

What would your last meal be, if you could decide?
Fried yam

What is the most overrated recent food trend?
Cooking classes

What is a simple good piece of advice for pairing wine and food?
Eat red meat with red wine

Favourite restaurant in Nigeria and outside?
Nigeria – Thai Thai
Outside – Pepe piri piri

Which country in the world has the best food?
Nigeria

Easiest meal to impress someone?
Salmon, beetroot and apple tartare

Favourite Nigerian meal?
Fried yam

Your favourite wine?
I don’t drink

5 cooking ingredients you can’t do without?
Salt, black pepper, onion, garlic and paprika

Do you scream in the kitchen?
No

How do you get your revenge on unappreciative and annoying customers?
Customer is King.

Favourite ingredient to work with?
Black pepper

If you weren’t cooking what would you be doing for a living?
Food Video contents

What are you most excited about right now?
Getting an Electric food truck for my 12 inch baguette sandwich service.

Do you have any pet peeves?
When a teammate disappoints and affects the overall performance of the team  

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