Food & Wine General

A Pie Journey

I started my journey without any idea of how it would morph over time. I learned and started cooking at the age of 12 in Nigeria prior to my family and I migrating to the USA.  The honest truth is, I never thought I would be into cooking since I was very much into fashion, I sewed and knitted a lot, and my dad supported my business ventures even though at the time I was not charging for the services rendered to people.  When I moved to America, the plan was that my mom would buy me a sewing machine, so I could continue to perfect my sewing skills and make beautiful embroideries. I never got my sewing machine, so the dream died.

Igniting a forgotten passion by the wayside…

What next, since I considered myself a good cook (and others agreed) I started spending a lot of my spare time cooking and also taught myself how to bake.  This was the birth of my catering business. Not only was I now cooking for family, I was also catering events throughout my teens.  Fast forward to adulthood, a little over 3 yrs. ago, I decided to put myself out there as a budding business to friends and others.

The grit

Catering business like any other business requires passion, but growing the business takes a lot more than passion.  It requires determination and sacrifice.  A business is a labor of love; it’s like raising a child, you have to do the job regardless of whether or not you want to.  Personally, I don’t subscribe to bandwagon followers’ approach.  Just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you.  The food business is labor intensive.  If anything, I have gained a new-found respect for restaurateurs, chefs, food truck businesses and any sort of food business.

The growth

Being a passionate foodie also means making a great product that will keep customers coming back.  Food is an experience and it is part of enjoying life.  I care about the work I do for people and making sure my food is tasty plus happy customers is important.  If you do good work, you never have to force your product on people, customers will reach out organically. With that, I started building and maintaining my clientele.

            You do have to promote yourself, so people know you are in business.  For me, although I knew a lot of people, nobody knew I cooked until I started catering friends’ events, people tasted my food and reached out to me to cater for them.  Also, as a serious social media fanatic, I actively post my work on different social media outlets and engaged a lot with my social media (@TreatsbySade) followers/ audience. Marketing vigorously and well is important. Finally, gaining and keeping that credibility helps with referrals.

Continuing the long journey

You have proven you are passionate about starting a food business and can cook well. What next?  Now you have to decide your pricing margin.  Pricing is difficult because you want to be fair and also make sure you are profiting, if not why would you keep slaving in the kitchen after a full day at work???  Having a business model that works for you makes pricing easier.  When I first started, I took whatever deal came my way. This is meant accepting catering orders that ranged from small vs. large scale, meal preps, random one-off small cook this or that requests, or whatever.   But once I decided to focus and tailor my business to an area, I eliminated many stressors i.e.  I preferred catering small scale events with a maximum number of 50-60 people to manage my time and resources especially with full time employment.   So, I capped the number of people I would cook for based on the pot sizes I owned.  I started shopping in bulk to keep cost low and, obtained and segmented pan sizes to match price point for different items.  I decided that I preferred that customers ordered at a certain minimum $ amount so that it would be worth the effort of running around and the hours spent in the kitchen [being mindful of labor]- the cost effective ratio.  My small scale business has narrowed even further to catering a single food item with options of different flavors / fillings.

Today, I am happy where I am with my business as well as with how much I have grown in the process.  In spite of my smallish business engine, I try to practice and maintain good business ethics.  This included being fiscally disciplined such that from day one, I always and still track all my sales and expenses, which helped to determine pricing.  Now that the business is grown and profitable, I invested the earnings back into it. What this looked like for me was investing in small grade professional kitchen equipment that improved and streamlined the cooking process, I registered my business, and separated my business from personal $$ and started filing business taxes.

My learned Tips:

  • In my line of business, customer is King: so, I always endeavor to provide good customer service
  • Don’t compromise on a fair price valuation; your friends are not entitled to special discounts otherwise it slowly stops being a viable business model in time.
  • Business is business, you can’t please everyone but have the right attitude and ethics.
  • Understand cooking for a few people is different from cooking for a lot of people; the market or target customer is integral “the Who
  • Continue to hone your culinary skills; a business must grow and strive for excellence
  • Support system is key; I was lucky to have a business mentor as soon as I started, plus friends/customers that constantly encouraged me.
  • Take your business seriously; otherwise it is just a fad that dwindles or fade away




Instagram: @TreatsbySade

Blog Food & Wine

A Quick Guide to Wine Pairing with Nigerian Staple Dishes

Wine is becoming an important part of the Nigerian (generally Africans) palate in addition to beer, *hot* aka spirits and malt drinks etc.

This article will give some basics on wine pairing with Nigerian staples using some simple  examples, also note the wines shown here are for reference and does not serve as an endorsement of any brand/price point .

A summary of pairing is at the end of the article. Takeaway: Wine isn’t just paired based on the type of food but how the food is made (steamed, fried etc)  and its ingredients/spices.

So let’s start shall we,

Imagine a dish like ewa agoyin (beans)  or rich and spicy food in the same family type, you might consider pairing with a GSM (Grenache,  Syrah, and Mourvedre French grapes from the Rhone Valley region) red blend wine. This is because it is a full bodied red wine with flavors of dark fruits and spice. The Grenache provides spices, red fruit and alcohol to the blend, Syrah adds structure and dark fruits, while Mourvedre gives the tannins, color and length. Note– The letter ordering let’s you know which is the prominent grape e.g. MSG means higher Mourvedre content .

The sweetness in the ewa complements the fruity nature of the wine while the spicy ata works well with the spicy notes of the wine.  An expensive example of  a GSM wine is Chateauneuf-Du-Pape.

By the way, GSM is also a good wine for that beef chili that we all enjoy so much in the winter, especially if made with habanero pepper.

Now for every effervescent Nigerian, Jollof rice and efo riro are like water; typically made with a variety of spices and heat (habanero). You may go with a Zinfandel, a Californian staple, genetically synonymous to an Italian Primitivo. Zinfandel is a full body wine with fruity and spicy characters, a robust wine which makes it an easy choice to pair with both dishes. The heat and spices in these dishes such as bay leaves, thyme, garlic, and ginger enhances the pairing.  

Our next stop is Riesling, it is a good entry into the world of wine for most people. Despite its snobbery, Riesling has an impressive varietal. It is indigenous to Germany but now grown in different parts of the world including Australia, Washington State, and New York. It can be cultivated in minimal sunlight, making it a very acidic wine with intense aroma and flavor. Due to its high acidity, Riesling can be made into both dry wine and very sweet wine; it is one of the few white varietals that has the ability to age in bottle and also have a longer life span once opened.  If you want wine with low alcohol content, Riesling is perfect as it is typically in the 7-8% range whereas most wines are in 12-15% range. Rieslings also have a strong aroma; an interesting way to identify it without the bottle label is through its unique “Petrol” scent that tickles your nuzzle 😁.

Now for that gizzard and plantain dish, Riesling is a robust wine of choice. A medium body Riesling has more residual sugar which pairs well with the sweetness of the plantain and doesn’t take away from the gizzard. Riesling is a wine you can pair with a variety of food because of its intense flavor profile. For those who do not like red wine, Riesling or Gewurztraminer are great choices.

Also, Riesling is great with many Asian dishes from Sushi to Thai curry, in reality it is a great pairing for many dishes. Remember for every wine pairing each palette is different and it’s important to find what works for you. Washington, New York, and Australian origin are popular Riesling blends sold in the US. Australian Riesling has more residual sugar than the others, giving it a bit more body. So when you want a quick pairing choice, grab a Riesling and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Where is the Naija party without “fried fish” ???, lets pair with a Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon blanc is probably the second most popular white wine in the US, second to Chardonnay.  It has its origin from Bordeaux and Loire Valley in France where it is the largest part of most Bordeaux white wine blends. This wine thrives in cooler climates such as the Bordeaux and Loire Valley regions in France, New Zealand , South Africa, Chile, and Napa California.  Sauvignon blanc is known to be a refreshingly dry wine with strong aroma and minerality (meaning aroma of herbs and grass); It is a great pairing with food such as white meat and dishes with herbs such as rosemary, basil, cilantro, etc and we have those in Nigerian dishes.

Sauvignon Blanc, also known as Sancerre and Fumé Blanc. The term Sancerre is mostly used in France in the Bordeaux and Loire Valley region; while Fumé Blanc is supposed to represent dry Sauvignon Blanc wines aged in oak barrel, an uncommon practice for regular Sauvignon Blanc wines. With migration of the French people, Sauvignon Blanc grapes also emigrated to New Zealand where it is used in 100% varietals instead of blends. Cultivation of this wine in New Zealand resulted in fruit forward flavor profile that finally put it on the map. Many people swear by the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as being the best; however, it is up to you to explore and make that decision.

There you have it,  a basic intro of how to pick a good wine accompaniment for that Naija staple dish😁.

Nigerian dishes have pairing potential that is fun for the explorer.

Happy Exploring!!!!

Contribution from Sade and Mary













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