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Ifeyinwa Frederick, Bringing People Together through Nigerian Cuisine


ABOUT Ifeyinwa Frederick

Ifeyinwa Frederick is a writer and entrepreneur and she and her brother Emeka are the founders of Chuku’s, a Nigerian restaurant in London. They were motivated by the lack of Nigerian cuisine in the area where they grew up between East London and Essex and the desire to share their culture with others. Ifeyinwa has been listed as one of Forbes’ Top 100 Female Founders in Europe and one of the 15 Most Exciting Food and Drink Entrepreneurs in the UK.

Bringing People Together through Nigerian Cuisine

Not knowing how to do something often stops people from living their dreams and bringing their ideas to reality. For Ifeyinwa Frederick it meant a new learning opportunity and a motivation to understand how to do new things. This approach was what helped her and her brother Emeka to start a Nigerian restaurant despite having zero hospitality experience. Playing to their strengths and allowing their creativity to thrive was instrumental to their success.

The overall goal of Chuku’s is to share Nigerian culture and bring people together over Nigerian dishes. They placed a different twist on it by making sure the dishes were easily shared in the shape of Nigerian tapas, allowing people to try things from different areas of Nigeria and get a true introduction to its cuisine. Ifeyinwa opens up about the process of doing this and the strategies she and her brother used to build a community before they had a permanent physical address for Chuku’s and staying in business during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

However, hard work comes with huge challenges and for Ifeyinwa this led to burnout syndrome, which had a huge impact on her life and her way to do things. She realized she was prioritizing success over her mental and physical health. Ifeyinwa understood that the way she was doing things was unsustainable and this has led her to be very vocal about burnout and bringing awareness on this subject. She is also a big advocate for therapy and finding a way to prioritize the truly important things, including your well-being.

Highlights of the episode:

  • 01:59: Ifeyinwa Frederick explains why it is important for her to be introduced as Ifeyinwa instead of her nickname Iffy and the cultural implications her Nigerian first name and English last name have for her.
  • 07:05: The lack of Nigerian food options in Essex as part of the inspiration for creating Chuku’s, a restaurant that specializes in these dishes and that has become a way to share Nigerian culture with others.
  • 10:56: Making Chuku’s a place where sharing is easier and a wider range of flavors can be tasted by people who don’t know the cuisine. 
  • 21:56: Unlearning that academic successes are a whole identity and that a person is more than their achievements and the work they do.
  • 25:05: University teaches more than the context of the course. One of the things Ifeyinwa learned was how to do things she had no idea how to do. It also allowed her to become used to being uncomfortable and innovating from that position. 
  • 30:53: The advantage of having built a community independent of a physical restaurant and the strategies used to make sure Chuku’s could continue thriving and sharing Nigerian culture with others during the lockdowns. 
  • 41:50: Burnout has become normalized and the value of an individual is often measured by how much they work and what they achieve. Ifeyinwa has faced burnout and realized that success at the cost of herself is not the way to go and she has become a big advocate for therapy and work-life balance.
  • 44:12: When it comes to burnout, the rush to get all the things, do everything, and be successful can become a priority at the cost of the person. This often leads to a point in which success is not enjoyable anymore and burnout takes over.

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Episode 39