The Story of Mukase Chic — Thoughts on the Ghanaian Food Scene and the Future (Part II)
In Part I of our interview, we got to meet Mukase Chic, a young Ghanaian lady making waves on the local food scene. Muckase Chic told us all about the genesis of her brand and its transformation from a blog to a restaurant. In Part II, Mukase Chic tells us about some of the challenges she’s faced on her journey and shares her views about the Ghanaian foodie scene.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced on the Mukase Chic journey?
The truth is that when I started with the food blog, I might have faced some challenges but I didn’t even know they were challenges. Because I wasn’t doing it to make a name for myself or even to make an ‘impact.’ I was just trying to teach people who like me were now learning how to prepare our local dishes. But now that it has evolved into a restaurant, the challenges are usually the challenges that all entrepreneurs face including finances, a hard economy, lack of support systems, etc.
There’s also been challenges using social media as an outlet to reach people. I run a social media restaurant, that’s what I say all the time. So I have some of my social friends send requests to my DM about certain food orders and requests for recipes that I can’t meet or provide; or they request for food to be sent to locations that’s just not possible. Also, sometimes when people receive their orders, they tell me it doesn’t look exactly like what they saw on Instagram.
My challenge is to make sure the food I serve my customers tastes as good as it looks. That’s all that I’m concerned about. When people find me on Instagram and come to my restaurant, I want the food to be as good as what they saw on my page, which will make them come back again.
Will you meet every order a customer makes?
Well, no. Unfortunately I don’t believe in the saying that the customer is always right. I think that most customers like myself don’t know what we want. We sometimes want something because someone recommended it. And then when we get to the point of making a purchasing decision, we decide that we want to make changes based on our personal references. So we need to be as frank to customers as possible. If a customer makes a request for a food to be made in a certain way that you can’t make it, just let her know. I will not promise a customer anything I cannot deliver.
Tell me more about your growth plans. Where will the Mukase Chic brand be in the next five years?
In the next five years, Mukase Chic should be one of the top three restaurants serving Ghanaian foods. So that if anyone coming from outside Ghana says they want to eat good Ghanaian food, Mukase Chic should be the preferred place recommended by any Ghanaian foodie or restauranter. In five years, I want us to get more creative with our food and eating spaces.
I want to have a sustainable restaurant in five years. People do say a restaurant business is easy to start or manage and always remains profitable, but that’s not true. It’s difficult and also very risky. In five years, we should continue serving good food to people.
I will also be working on putting up new content on my blog every week. One of the main projects I want to undertake is to have a YouTube channel where I put videos of Mukase Chic preparing different dishes and be consistent with it. In five years, Mukase Chic should have food products on the shelf. I should be relaxing at home and not going to work every day, and still know that the work is being done.
In five, do you envision having new restaurants at new locations?
If in five years, the time is ripe, I’ll do it. Opening new branches is not just about having the money to purchase a new space. The consistency has to be hundred percent. If we have gotten to that point in five years, we will know.
Do you have an audience among the Ghanaian diaspora community and how have they supported Mukase Chic’s growth?
I have a lot of recommendations from people living outside Ghana. So I assume that they are supporting me. I get people who say “Oh, I heard about you here or I heard about you there.” I’ve had a lot of emails and DMs from people who say they love what I’m doing. But truthfully I haven’t rated their contributions to the business.
As I’m working on my YouTube Channel, it’s for them. Because I get all these messages about how they miss Ghana, when they see the pictures of the food I put up on Instagram. It’s one of the things that makes them miss home. And it will be amazing for them if all these recipes are simplified and put as video content online. Because before they left Ghana, I’m sure they called off ever preparing abenkwan, a task which most mothers take more than two hours to complete.
But if for them, they have a blog or a channel to go to, where cooking abenkwan can be simplified to thirty minutes, then they can prepare their soup and go back to work or take care of their kids. They will definitely be happy about such content and will gladly want to give it a try.
What are some of the most memorable food experiences you’ve had?
I always remember my father’s culinary skills. There are some foods that he used to prepare that I haven’t eaten again since he passed away. He used to prepare a meal which he added a tablespoon of gin to grinded pepper and a soup which he made with the innards of bushmeat. That was like eleven years ago, and I still vividly remember.
I am not easily won away by food ‘cause I kind of feel like every food has its own personality and texture. So whatever I eat, I enjoy it at that moment. I have some food bases that I love to go to. However I don’t remember having any magical food moments.
What are your three favorite restaurants in Accra?
I’m a fan of street food and I go to different restaurants for different things. I don’t have one restaurant that I go to all the time. If I come to Salad Bar, I won’t order a burger. I will order a sandwich and salad. If I go to Bistro, my order will be different.
My favorite food is kenkey. I love kenkey. There is one kenkey lady at Spintex, near Ecobank; another lady at Osu, and there is another at Ridge, opposite MTN. There’s one lady at Rawlings’ Park who sells a unique kind of kenkey. I can’t tell whether it is Fante kenkey or Ga kenkey, something like a mixture of the two. Her pepper is made to be like stew, it’s amazing! Anytime you are in Makola, please check her out. I love red-red as well. There’s a red-red seller at UT Bank Osu, and a lady called Lebene. I’ve had Lebene’s beans like twice and I still remember how it tastes. Yummy.
Who are the main players on the Ghanaian foodie scene?
I think Ndudu is doing a good job. And then there is Midunu. I haven’t been to any of her dinners yet, but I see her food combinations and she’s doing pretty amazing stuff. There is also Azmera. She offers one of the best local buffets ever. And then myself (laughs).
If you had to pick three things happening in Ghana right now, what would you want the world to know?
First of all, I want them to know that though people might say that Ghana is hard, Ghana is a good place to live. It’s a very peaceful place. People come from outside and say that “I can’t live here. I can’t live here.” I think that we are living here, so anybody else can live here. You want to have a business here, come do it. You will do well.
Secondly I want them to understand that Ghanaian cuisine is not fatty or starchy. If you are on diet or want to keep fit and eat well, you can eat Ghanaian food 24/7 and still not take in too much calories. It’s all about portions and checking your oils.
You can still enjoy that same flavour your taste buds is craving for and still keep fit. We have one of the most amazing spice collection in the world. It’s African and it’s authentic. And it’s high time we start looking at these things the way they should be looked at.
Thirdly, I want them to understand that there is a lady in Ghana called Mukase Chic (laughs), and she’s hoping that people will come to love Ghanaian and African cuisine the way she does. And she’s hoping that she provides a lot more content for people around the world to try our cuisine.
Because my thing is look, you are trying sushi, you’re calling it sushi, you are eating sushi and you are loving sushi. Why can’t you call my kontomire stew kontomire stew and love kontomire stew and just let it be kontomire stew. Why do you want to change its name to spinach leaves, blah blah blah… Why? (laughs)
I want them to know that very soon Mukase Chic and all the other people who are trying so hard for this to happen will make it happen. So we need their support. They should be proud of where they come from; and all that recognition that we’ve been crying for, I’m sure we will get there.
We conclude our interview in our next post where Jay touches on the topic of African spices, her advice for upcoming foodpreneurs and how her family and friends have supported her in the Mukase Chic journey.