Living Deliciously with Kwame Amfo-Akonnor, an Emerging Chef from Ghana
At 21, most young people his age who are in college in his home country Ghana are looking forward to graduate and land a well-paying job. Not for Kwame Anom Amfo-Akonnor, popularly known as Bishops. He began his entrepreneurial pursuits in his teen years, successfully making use of his interests and skills, as well as the opportunities that came knocking. For him, this is just the beginning of many great enterprises he wants to build.
Born into a family of six, with two older brothers and a little sister, he describes his family as a loving Christian home with the best parents. Kwame had part of his basic education at the Presec Staff Basic School, Legon and continued to the St. Thomas Aquinas Senior High School in Cantonments, Accra. He’s now pursuing a degree in Business Administration.
At the Amfo-Akonnor household, they rarely eat out. His mom, though a busy woman, makes sure that there is always food in the house. As a result of this, Kwame and his siblings have gotten used to eating homemade food. He rarely eats outside. His mother, who he describes as an amazing cook used to package his breakfast and lunch every morning before he left for school as a kid. Experiences around the dining table is what has bonded them as a family. As he revealed “My old man loves my mother for this.” In his early teen years, Kwame, who had an innate passion for cooking quickly learned some culinary skills from his mother, such that he could fix food for his siblings and himself whenever his parents travelled. At home, everyone attests to his great culinary skills.
I proceeded to ask him at what age or stage in his life he knew he wanted to become a chef and how his family and friends responded to that decision. He pegs that time between the ages of 14 and 18.
“I wanted to become a chef because I had passion for cooking. Cooking is something I can do at any time and I always love it when I’m in the kitchen. My family has had no problem with me pursuing a career in food, they are actually very supportive. From the very beginning my parents assured my siblings and I that they’d give their full support to whatever we wanted to do as long as it was morally upright. My friends love what I’m doing because they always get to eat from my kitchen. Who doesn’t like free good food?”
The Blogger, Chef, Model and Actor
But there is more to Kwame than his penchant for crafting finger-licking delicacies. Aside being a student and a food entrepreneur, he is a photo blogger, model and a budding actor. Though he hasn’t received any formal education in any of these fields, he is proving himself to be a multi-talented young man who turns anything he touches into gold.
In 2012, he had a single photoshoot with celebrated Ghanaian photographer Ofoe Amegavie which went viral on Tumblr. This exposure would lead him to more offers in modelling. He’s modelled for major brands in Ghana including Atto Tetteh Men’s Wear, Afro Volf, RPC Bags and Fablin Designs. He’s also worked with some of the best photographers in Ghana including Amfo Connolly, Steve Morris, Accra Photo, Mumble Photos, Quami Asephua and Apagnawen Annankra and has some of his images on a number of websites.
He landed his first acting role in the psychological thriller Three Nights Ago, which he co-starred with Sika Osei and Mawuli Gavor. The short movie, which was written by Gene Adu and directed by Idowu Okeniyi is on Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and highlights one of the mechanisms some victims of traumatic experiences employ to survive through the trauma, pain or stress.
He credits his ability to juggle four equally demanding roles – entrepreneur, blogger, model and actor – to good time scheduling and doing one thing at a time. He stated that doing these things has not negatively affected his schooling, which he says is equally important to him.
Getting to Know Bishops More
Kwame’s favourite Ghanaian dish is Omotuo and Groundnut Soup. The ideal breakfast he’d want to wake up to is Tom Brown, Crepes and Orange or Pineapple Juice. He favourite music genres are Ghanaian highlife music, rap and RnB. On any day, he could be listening to Ebo Taylor, Lecrae, Drake or Avril Lavigne. Kwame loves to read satire, drama and adventure novels as well as non-fiction including cookbooks. At the time of this interview he was re-reading a personal favourite book, Chinua Achebe’s No Longer at Ease, a sequel to Things Fall Apart. Asking about his favourite book of all-time, a book he thinks everyone should read, he voted Americanah, the third novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
When I asked him which football team he supports, he was quick to say that football is not his thing. To unwind or relax, Kwame writes, blogs, cooks or hangs out with his friends. He admits he enjoys travelling and exploring and his dream holiday getaway is a weeklong stay at a resort in Abu Dhabi. He says he’ll love to visit Spain, Italy and Mexico to have a first-hand experience of their food and culture. He’d also want to visit Ethiopia and explore India, making particular mention of Mumbai, where he says there are some beautiful caves and other important landmarks. His African heroes include Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Kofi Anan. His role models in the food industry include Jamie Oliver from Food Network and Dedo and Azu from Tea Baa. When I asked him his choice of phone, he said “iPhone any day.”
Knowing the Biishville Brand
Kwame started dreaming of owning an eatery at the age of 16.
“I always wanted to own a place where I can make good food for people to enjoy. I wanted to start off with a dessert shop. My mother had this great dessert shop idea from Amsterdam which I wanted to develop. The idea of starting Biishville started when I was in my sophomore year in university. It took me one whole year to fully develop the concept and come up with a business plan.”
He built the Biishville brand based on the idea of homemade food. Biishville simply means Bishops’ House and is synonymous with Bishops’ Kitchen. Bishops is a pet name he adopted from his brother who is popularly known as Bishop. He simply added an “s” to Bishop, and he also got his cool name. Haha. What makes Biishville a unique brand is the person behind the brand and the passion and level of artistry he exudes in his craft.
“Everything that comes out of Biishville is out of passion to create masterpieces, a desire to offer the most amazing food experiences for our patrons. Our clients attest to the exceptional customer service they experience whenever they come to Biishville. Our ever-changing menu is also something that makes our service unique. Our sell-line at Biishville is “Live Deliciously””
Biishville offers private chef/catering services and hosts signature small private events, for an exclusive number of people. They also cater for birthdays, dinners and any small event, be it private or public. Biishville is currently working on a series of such events scheduled for the summer between June and September. He also stated that starting this summer, individuals will be able to make orders from Biishville, with deliveries on weekends.
On 27th February 2016, Bishops’ Kitchen had an opening and tasting session which received raving reviews on Ghanaian lifestyle blogs Bra Perucci and Mamestastes. Ghanaian celebrity blogger Ameyaw Debrah who was present also blogged about the evening.
“The guest list was amazing. I hosted actress and TV presenter Sika Osei, celebrity blogger Ameyaw Debrah, Mame from Mamestastes, and Ashley of Accra Craves. Also present were pro photographers Amfo Connolly, Steve Morris and Apagnawen Annankra. Pokuwaa and Joey Chase from AccraWeDey were also present. We got treated to some good music by Kidi, winner of MTN Hitmaker 4. Other guests included spoken word artist and radio presenter Babette Van Aalst, makeup artist Hamid Jay, and my good friends Amanda, Aboagye, Anita, Benewaa, Mensima, Stefan, Heidi, Telvin, Boakye, Jessica, Bema, Afi, Kennetha and Felix. A few people on the list couldn’t make it but they sent their love and support.”
On the menu that day was Irwin jollof, Beef fried rice, Oven-grilled chicken, Gizzard in vegetable sauce, and Biishville’s specialty cocktails.
He has named his recipes after real people in his life. From Irwin in Irwin Jollof to Ansah in The Ansah
Asking him what his biggest accomplishment since he started the Biishville journey has been, he stated that taking the bold step to turn his passion into a business, alone, is a great accomplishment.
“Being able to start Biishville alone is an accomplishment, as well as hosting two well-attended private dinners. All events I’ve held have been very successful and the feedback has been amazing. The fact that people actually express their love for the food I make is my biggest accomplishment. And also my ability to retain my clients.”
I asked him who his clients are and how he is leveraging social media to promote his brand and reach new customers.
“My clients are basically people who appreciate healthy homemade food. I’m targeting segments of people with an appreciation for good quality food. I use Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to engage with the patrons of Bishops’ Kitchen and attract new ones. I post regular updates of all upcoming events, as well as post live updates and pictures from events. This helps promote the Biishville brand. I always encourage my followers on Instagram and Twitter and my clients to give feedback on my services. Not only do I want to build a client base, but I also want to build a relationship with the patrons of Bishops’ Kitchen so that I can know what they actually look forward to and provide them with exactly what they need. Obtaining goodwill with your clients is key to customer retention.”
In five years’ time, Kwame envisions the Biishville brand to have held fast to its mission of becoming a favourite food, dessert and cocktail spot in Accra and growing to become a hospitality company that is dedicated to serving the best meals and providing quality services to customers in multiple cities across Africa.
Hear him talk about some of the challenges he’s faced on the Biishville journey.
“When I decided to have an opening of Bishops’ Kitchen, I wanted to do it on my own without any financial support from my family. I invested my monthly allowance for school into the opening which made me live on my provisions in college for some time till I made the returns on the investment. Those were some difficult times but it was over soon. Also, combining school with Biishville has been quite a challenge. And then the issue of a physical location. People reach out to me to ask for directions to Biishville, but I can’t give them a definite answer because for now I do only private events which is a nomadic or pop-up kind of food service. And also because I’m in school, people cannot get to eat from Bishops’ Kitchen as and when they want to. But that will change very soon. It’s quite disappointing when their bubble gets burst because they have to wait for a month or two to experience food from my kitchen.”
Going Into Bishops’ Kitchen
When we got into Bishops’ Kitchen, I threw a few random questions at him:
Favourite kitchen task?
Favourite kitchen tool?
My knives are definitely my favourite tools. Good knives increase efficiency in the kitchen.
What’s the first dish you learned how to cook? Who taught you?
Shepherd’s Pie. My mother taught me.
Food you enjoy cooking the most?
Jollof and sauces, I enjoy making sauces – vegetable, beef, gizzard, chicken, seafood, all sauces actually.
Do you go solo in the kitchen or you love to have someone around as you cook?
Solo but it’s always good to have a helping hand
How do you get inspiration for your recipes?
Mainly from cook books and food channels
What recipes have you come up with so far?
I’ve come up with seven recipes so far. I introduced the first two (Irwin Jollof and Spicy Potatoes in Beef Sauce, also known as Mpotompoto with Swag) during the opening of Bishops’ Kitchen. I’ll introduce five new recipes at different dinners this summer. I’ll also be introducing new cocktails with Babette van Aalst who is a brilliant mixologist.
As a chef, is your goal to come up with new dishes or you just seek to add value to already-existing dishes?
I want to do both. But it’s a personal goal to come up with as many new dishes as possible.
Any favourite cookbook or food blog?
What are your top three cooking tips to share with our readers?
- When cooking, always use sharp knives. It’s efficient. Always start with a smoking hot pan and clean as you cook.
- Store spices in cool or dark places to avoid losing their flavours
- Cooking is all about preparation. Marinate your meat/chicken/pork/fish overnight.
What condiment, herb or spice will you never miss in any food you prepare?
Garlic, ginger, onion and fresh pepper. They are the keys to good meals. Take note.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to food?
I believe in eating good healthy food or no food at all. I also believe that there’s no sincerer love than the love for food. (laughs)
What do you love most about your job (being a chef)?
I love the part I get to taste the food before everyone (laughs) and most importantly the part where I sit to watch people enjoy the food I make. That’s the best feeling in the world.
Who has been your biggest influence in your journey to becoming a chef?
Coming Out of the Kitchen
We continued our conversation when we came out of the Kitchen.
Do you know of any lesser-known eateries in Accra that serve amazing food and drinks that we might not know about yet?
TEA BAA. You guys should go to Tea Baa right now. Have their pork chops with coconut rice and their all-day breakfast and try any of their iced teas. I promise you, you’ll have a good time. Also the apple pie, guys. They make one of the best apple pies you’ll find in all of Accra.
If you had to pick three things of interest happening in Ghana right now, what would you want the world to know?
First of all the world should be ready for Ghanaian recipes. Secondly, the hospitality industry is gaining grounds here. Finally the world should be ready for Made in Ghana products. Quality products that rubs shoulders with the established brands are coming from here. We are getting there gradually.
What do you think is the next big thing in the Ghanaian food industry?
Desserts. Ghanaians are developing a taste for healthy snacks and desserts. We need good desserts shops in Ghana. CiGusta, Cupcake Boutique, Pinocchio and all the ice cream shops and bakeries are doing well but we need more variety. When you visit Creams (London) you get to have a lot of options to choose from, you sometimes find it difficult to decide on what you want to have. That should be the dream.
If you were to put together a “101 Things to Do in Accra” guide for non-Accra and non-Ghana residents, what will your top three be?
- Read reviews from food review sites and personal blogs and visit any good African restaurants or try our local foods.
- Visit the best hotels in and around Accra
- Visit our art galleries
What’s your advice to young people looking to become a chef or start their own restaurant?
If you don’t have passion for the culinary disciplines, please don’t venture. And as a cook or chef, don’t focus on only making profit. The focus should be on touching lives with your art and putting smiles on the faces of people who eat from your kitchen. And finally it’s not going to be an easy road. There are going to be ups and downs but don’t get stuck when you are down, strive to get back up and move on. Never start a business with a loan as your primary or only source of funding. Save towards your venture and raise funds from family and friends. Also consider equity by bringing in a partner or investor. This advice goes to anyone who wants to start a business, not just those looking to enter the food industry.
What’s your opinion on food blogs? What role do you think they have to play in terms of how people get information online and how the food landscape is shaped?
Food blogs are so vital. They play a major role in providing important information on places to check out or look out for and I’m excited there are a lot of food blogs popping up in Ghana.
Anyone you’ll like to thank?
First of all, I’ll like to thank God. He has been so good to me. I’ll also want to thank my parents for an amazing upbringing and continuous support. They are the best parents anyone could wish for. Also my siblings. They’ve been very supportive. I’ll also like to thank my friends and anyone who supports my dreams. I really appreciate you guys. A big thank you to Maame Ansah, my best friend and unofficial manager at Biishville. Thank you to My Weku Tastes for this feature on me. And yeah, my clients. You guys have been amazing. There are some people who never miss my events. They’ve been to all my private dinners. I couldn’t have asked for more guys. God bless you all.
Phone: +233 50 748 8133