In talking to the owners of the businesses working with La Cocina, one common theme struck me; a love and passion for cooking. This goes for Chiefo Chukwudebe as well, who is bringing out her West African roots in her food at Chiefo’s Kitchen.
“Growing up in Nigeria, my mom and my aunts always were in the kitchen. It really was an all-day process, but one that they enjoyed,” she said. “There was a real appreciation to just sit and eat as a family.”
With that tight-knit family atmosphere, Chukwudebe’s love for cooking was apparent at an early age. “As kids, we would ask our nanny to leave. Then we would rummage through the things in the kitchen and grab some of the produce my dad grew on our farm. Then we would just start experimenting with food,” she said. “We weren’t supposed to be doing it, but we had so much fun! Even though our dad was a little upset because we weren’t supposed to be using the kitchen unsupervised, he was amazed by some of the food we had created.”
After spending time in the Peace Corps, she turned back to the kitchen, enrolling in culinary school. She eventually made the move to the Bay Area and thought of no better way to not only cook, but to introduce the Bay Area to her roots, than by working with La Cocina on a business plan.
“For such a diverse area, West African cuisine is rarely, if ever, seen in the Bay Area. You’ll see Ethiopian restaurants or Moroccan food. So part of my goal for Chiefo’s Kitchen was to introduce people to the cuisine I grew up with, the food that I love so much,” she said.
Chef Chiefo still gets much of her produce from regions of Africa, but also sources locally, using ingredients from Bay Area farms and producers as well. In describing her food, she said it has a lot of spices, and is both flavorful and complex.
Chiefo’s Kitchen will be at Saturday’s SF Street Food Festival. Her booth will be located between 23rd and 24th streets and Treat and Shotwell and will be serving Moi Moi (savory cake made with steamed, pureed black eyed peas. Seasoned with tomatoes, onions, assorted peppers and a hint of crayfish. Topped with Nigerian tomato sauce, fried onions and choice of crispy corned beef, boiled egg or fried fish) and Suya Beef Skewers (traditional West African shish kebabs seasoned with peanut pepper rub; served with grilled red onions and fresh tomatoes).
Photo Credit: Chiefo’s Kitchen