Creating Unique Dining Experiences with Chef Nuel, Owner of Nuel’s Food Zone
The Western Region of Ghana is known for its lush and dense forests, its minerals and its diverse ethnic groups. In this region’s coastal twin-city capital – Sekondi-Takoradi – lives an enterprising young man who is building a truly inspiring African food brand. Emmanuel Appoh, popularly known as Nuel is the founder and executive chef of Nuel’s Food Zone, a contract catering service providing gourmet food and beverages for diners at parties, weddings, cocktail events, private and corporate events.
Nuel has been passionate about food as far back as he can remember, and at home, he regularly cooks for his family. Knowing from an early age that he wanted to become a food entrepreneur and own a restaurant, he studied Home Economics at the University Practice High School and proceeded to the University of Cape Coast where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management.
An entrepreneurship class in his final year of university fired him up to finally put his long-held dream to the test, launching Nuel’s Food Zone on October 18th 2015 whiles still a student, working on his first few orders from his hostel’s kitchen. His story has been nothing short of outstanding, with a laser-like focus, resourcefulness, perseverance and a dedication to the art and science of fine dining that is certain to propel this brand to greater heights.
Getting to Know Nuel
How much did food and cooking play a role in your childhood and upbringing? Any memorable food experiences that impacted you as a kid or teenager?
Growing up, my parents made sure we ate together as a family during all meals of the day. This quality time made me bond very well with my siblings and parents, and till today, we are very close, because food fosters unity and love among people. Sometimes after dining time, we would spend about thirty minutes or even more chit-chatting, laughing over jokes and just being a family. I enjoyed cleaning up after eating and I would usually help my mom to dish out the meals and set up the table for dining. That’s where my love for food and cooking began.
Who has been the biggest influence in your journey to becoming a food entrepreneur?
My mom has been my biggest influence. I learnt so much as an impressionable boy when I picked up her culinary skills by simply observing and taking keen interest whenever she was cooking. She gave me small tasks, and I graduated into big tasks till I could cook complete meals unaided. When she saw how good I had become, she started to give me the opportunity to cook and serve the family. I have been cooking for my family from my teenage years till today.
Favorite Ghanaian dish?
Omotuo and groundnut soup
Favorite Continental dish?
Cajun Jambalaya Pasta
What music do you listen to?
Gospel and soul. Some of my favourite artistes include Hillsong, Darlene Zschech, Amy Newman, Nathaniel Bassey and Pentatonix.
Are you a reader? Favorite genres?
I’m not much of a reader but I love mystery and thrillers.
What do you do for fun, to unwind or to relax?
I sing and listen to music and watch movies.
Do you enjoy travelling? What’s your dream holiday destination?
Yes, I enjoy travelling. I hope to visit France and China to explore more of their cuisine and take in all the magnificent sights and sounds.
Do you have any African heroes?
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Kofi Annan.
Any role model in the food industry?
Knowing the Nuel’s Food Zone Brand
When did you begin dreaming about Nuel’s Food Zone? When did the journey start?
When I was in junior high school, I decided that I was going to take a career in food and hospitality and that led me to study Home Economics in senior high school. I was convinced that this was the industry I wanted to make a mark in, and my parents gave their blessings. I launched Nuel’s Food Zone on October 18th, 2015 and thus far has the Lord brought us.
Who are you clients and how do you reach them? How are you leveraging social media to promote your brand and reach new customers?
Our patrons have included tertiary students in Ghana, exchange students from Denmark, Francophone students from the West African sub region, schools, churches and non-governmental organisations, companies and more. We reach our clients and potential clients primarily through social media. In addition, referrals from satisfied clients has brought us new works.
Social media has really helped our brand name go far. I make sure that I use it in a very efficient and effective manner to reach my patrons. I know when to post our works to reach our targeted audience and I employ good photography in telling our food stories.
What makes Nuel’s Food Zone stand out from all the other contract catering services in the country?
I worked in three hotels during my summer breaks whiles in the university, where I picked best practices and lessons in running a kitchen, waiting at the restaurant and giving guests at the hotel complete satisfaction in housekeeping services. All of these have come together to define my art and craft, and this is what I bring to Nuel’s Food Zone.
With an all-male team of nine energetic young people, we work with a high level of professionalism and bring a unique experience to every dining event.
What’s your full range of services? Any specialty services?
We cater for all events ranging from parties, engagements, weddings, private events & corporate events. We also do deliveries.
What’s the next phase of growth? Where do you envision the brand two years from today?
We hope to have opened a branch of Nuel’s Food Zone in Accra in the next two years and to become one of the most renowned food businesses in Ghana.
Going Into the Zone
Favorite kitchen task?
Grating and chopping
Favorite kitchen tool/equipment?
What’s the first dish you learned how to cook? Who taught you?
Jollof rice by my mom
What are your top three cooking tips to share with our readers?
- Marinade your meat and fish in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours before cooking.
- Always take into consideration the taste and preferences of your clients whenever you are cooking.
- Learn new ways of doing a particular dish so that in the absence of a key ingredient you will be able to substitute it with another ingredient.
What herb or spice will you never miss in any food you prepare?
Onions and Black Pepper
What are the top three foods your clients request for?
- Our Salads is the most ordered food by our clients
- Banku and Oven-baked Tilapia
- Jollof Rice and Grilled Chicken
What’s your take on the waakye-jollof debate? Which team are you on? Is any of the two dishes overrated?
I will definitely go for waakye any day, any time. Both are good African meals that need to be on every home’s menu. We are Africans and these are our dishes, so if we are not proud of it and don’t get it out there, no one else will. They are both superb foods, and I believe they deserve all the attention people give them.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to food?
Food is not just a combination of two or more ingredients to make a palatable meal. Food is an art, art that is seen and appreciated by passionate foodies.
What do you love most about your job?
Seeing people enjoy my meals and appreciating it brings me joy and fulfilment, a pure inner joy which can never be bought with gold. It’s priceless.
Coming Out of the Zone
What has been your biggest accomplishment since you started the journey?
Turning my passion into a viable business is an accomplishment in itself. We have overcome hurdles to get to where we are today as a business.
I was interviewed on the Young and Ambitious Show during their spotlight segment on Premier Radio 100.5 MHz in Takoradi, where I shared insights I’ve acquired on this journey and the experiences I’ve obtained in starting and running Nuel’s Food Zone.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced on the journey?
When I started this business, I had close to nothing to start with in terms of equipment and capital, but I was very keen on making this work. In the early months, I had to hire equipment in order to cook. My friend Jonathan played an instrumental role during these early stage of the business. He’s part of our brand and its success. By the grace of God, and with the right people and a good amount of determination and hard work, we have delivered to our client’s satisfaction work after work.
Also, combining my academics whiles on campus with running a business was not an easy task. There were times I would have an order and at the same time have an exam to prepare for on the following day. I had to put in long hours and also make time to study. It was sometimes very cumbersome and tiring but I never gave up on my dream neither did I quit school. I run the business and gave adequate time to my studies until I graduated in September 2016.
If you had to pick three things of interest happening in Ghana right now, what would you want the world to know?
The world should watch out for the new crop of artists emerging out of the country. I love art, and the sort of art some of these young people are creating is amazing. Secondly, photography is gaining so much grounds and many individuals and businesses are looking for good photographers with an artistic eye to tell their stories and create memories they will cherish. I believe that very soon we Ghanaian photographers will be competing with other great photographers from across Africa. Finally, any tourist who is planning to tour the Western Region of Ghana should add Akansa Forest to their itinerary. That’s nature at its best.
What do you think is the next big thing in the Ghanaian food industry?
The love for local delicacies is gaining much grounds that in some years to come people will order more of the local dishes than continental dishes from eateries around town.
What’s your advice to young people looking to become food entrepreneurs?
Stay where you are, do what you can do and make the best use of every resource and opportunity you have. Carefully plan whatever kind of food business you wish to go into and then take a leap of faith and do it because anything is possible so far as you believe.
Also, if you don’t have the passion for this kind of work please don’t venture into it because the catering and hospitality industry requires that you put in a lot of hours. Never make money your priority in this business; do it because you want others to benefit from your gift of cooking. The money will follow suit in due time.
Anyone you’ll like to thank?
I want to thank God Almighty for being with me since the start of this journey; He grace has brought me this far. My second thanks go to my beautiful mom for teaching me the art of cooking and being my number one inspiration. And to my dad for his constant support, advice and prayers for the business.
Also to my amazing siblings. I would not have gotten far without your love and support. And to my gee brothers and friends, thanks for your constant support. To the only gee team, Team Nuel’s Food Zone, you guys keep me going. Thanks for doing this with me. Finally, to our clients, we say thank you for choosing us always.
Find Nuel’s Food Zone
Phone: +233 54 529 0804
WhatsApp: +233 20 759 4793