We’re halfway through the first month of the year. How has 2019 been for you so far?
Most of us are getting started on our New Resolutions. Some of us are giving up certain things to this month. One thing that’s been making a regular appearance on my timeline over the past two weeks is Veganuary. It’s a bit like Dry-January but instead of avoiding alcohol for the month, every meal has to be vegan – no meat or produce from animals.
What does this look like in an African context? I recently had the pleasured dining on Zion’s Kitchen’s Afro-Vegan pop-up menu. The menu included:
I was promised a night of fine dining and cultural fusion; that’s exactly what I received. There was also an alternative menu for those who wanted a non-vegan experience.
Zion’s Kitchen aims to carry African cuisine and vegan food into a whole new direction, creating a truly unique fine dining experience.
Zion’s Kitchen is not your regular restaurant. For one, it’s not based in one location. The beauty of a pop-up restaurant is that it can appear anywhere and at any time. The flexibility this affords the restaurant means that it is able to reach a wider demographic, encouraging more people to experience each tasty dish.
I had a chance to talk to founder and chef Temi Edun about her brand, her menu and her future plans for Zion’s Kitchen.
AB: How did Zion’s Kitchen come about and why did you choose to serve vegan food?
TE: When I go into business I always look for a niche. The niche came up with food which was vegan food. We have so many African dishes which are classified as vegan food. I knew I didn’t want to do catering, I didn’t want to have a full-time restaurant and so I thought to try a pop-up event. There are many venues in London that still have the fixtures in place, the only thing I had to source externally was an oven. The fridge and everything else is there, all I then had to do is jazz up the venue.
AB: What were you doing before staring Zion’s Kitchen?
TE: I’ve always had a passion for food. Even when I worked in finance, I always found myself thinking about food. At lunchtime, I would buy ingredients and put things together. I wanted to pursue it further so I decided to train as a chef. After that, I started my own catering service. I did some weddings and worked with mainly west African clientele but I stopped for a while. I started another project, still around food. I got it up to the stage where Harrods approached me to take on my products. I then went on to pursue the idea of Zion’s Kitchen and here we are.
AB: What has been the response so far?
TE: People seem to like the menu, I’ve had great comments so far. The feedback on the very first day was good. People liked the ambience as well as the food.
I want that restaurant feel with the flexibility of a pop-up event.
AB: What’s next for Zion’s Kitchen?
TE: We’ll be holding the next round of pop-ups in the spring. The long term vision for Zion’s Kitchen is to bring our food to the mainstream. I want people to go out for dinner and west African cuisine as an option, as they would an Italian of Thai restaurant. At the same time, I want people to be aware of the variety of meals we cater for. I think previously we did things in a traditional way. But now we are merging our traditional way of preparing food with western ways too, putting our own touch on things.
AB: What would you like our readers to take away?
TE: Our food can be fine dining and presented well. We use the same ingredients as used in other parts of the world, it’s just the techniques that are different. I’d like to see more regulation for independent caterers serving African cuisine. I want those of us working in catering to take the time needed to consider how we can better ourselves and the industry, to look for courses that are available so we can refine our craft. We can learn to do things the right way. The London based restaurant Ikoyi has just been awarded their first Michelin star, that’s a great achievement! We can all aim high. We are often too competitive and suspicious of each other, especially when it comes to food. We can and should share our ideas and our connections. We can really pull each other up. That doesn’t mean we’re taking anything away from each other, our styles will still be different. I would like a situation where those working in food can come together as a consortium and give advice to others, especially to those who are starting out.
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Photo Credits: Alina By Photography