UNVEILED: KEMI’S KITCHEN!
‘Africa’s No 1. Restaurant in Heart of Texas’…Plans to open new branch in Dallas-Forthworth (DFW) in 12 months
*’We provide varieties of African delicacies in 100 % healthy, well-sanitized zones, under good temperature’-Don Badejo, ace American-trained Restauranteur
*Secret behind the outstanding success and growth in 13 years exposed
* Couple profess undying love for each other even if there’s re-incarnation
*’Majority of our customers are White/Black Americans, Latinos & Africans’–Kemi Badejo, Chief operating officer
* Quote: “ Every good restaurant in the world begins with food safety, followed by food quality”
THEY are inseparable couples running the most sought-after African restaurant, daily making wave in varieties of seasoned African recipes in the heart of Texas-the ‘lone state’, precisely Arlington. Their restaurant, now 13 years old is unarguably ranked the ultimate in African delicacies rich in African condiments. Don and Kemi Badejo (husband and wife) are like twins, always together most times. While Don, a widely-traveled Nigerian-American trained restaurant expert is the ‘brain-box’ behind this enviable outfit worth $1million, the wife runs the daily operations as Chief Operating Officer. In spite of their obvious busy schedule, the couple welcomed CNN iReport to their cozy outfit which has played host to varieties of Hollywood, Nollywood and top African musicians at 1102 West Pioneer Parkway, Grand Prairie. Enjoy our interactive chat with the couple…
Can you tell us the secret behind the success story of Kemi’s Kitchen?
The secret is very simple. It is certainly about the commitment of being excellent in whatsoever we do daily. In every food item that we made, we aim at perfection and excellence. We ensure we step up all our food production excellently in the most cleanest, most healthy environment under the right temperature.
What inspired the inspiration of this success story?
I have been in the American food service industry for over 30 years. Having worked for some of the famous American restaurants in the number of decades, with lots of experience acquired, and traveling around the world to open restaurants for them; I believe we can take the same commitment and vigor we applied earlier to brands like Chili’s, McDonald into producing an African restaurant. This is such that we will be able to provide for our guests the same high quality of African food in standards that they will be proud of anytime, any-day.
Can you tell us where lies the strength of Kemi’s Kitchen in food supremacy?
Kemi’s Kitchen provide authentic and very rich African food, that is far better than most elitists’ restaurants in Lagos State or Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Kindly take us through few of these African delicacies
The most common staple food in all African meal is starch, which are rice and Fufu. But I must tell you that Fufu is the generic word for a starch that is consumed with either a stew or soup. We do pounded yam, ‘Amala’ as normal parts of our menu. Also, we produce rice meal, especially jollof rice-which is most popular among White Americans, African-Americans and Africans. We do different kinds of white rice, fried rice and jollof rice, which most our customers really cherish a lot. Since we make the whole food here, number one item in our soup recipe is the Tilapia fish because it is very healthy, tasty and fresh.
What makes Kemi’s Kitchen the most visited restaurant in Texas by lovers of African food?
To start with, it never really occurred to me before we started that we were going to operate an African restaurant. We really thought that we would be excellent in Catering. As such, we focused principally on Catering events around United States. Most of the guests that become our permanent customers are people that meet us at very important ceremonies, taste our food and request us to give them our contacts, since they cherish our meals. That was how they became familiar with our African food. It was almost impossible since we started that we don’t have a long list of Catering ceremonies to supply African delicacies every weekend. Even during weekdays, you will see sea of heads occupy our tables enjoying our meals. We just thank God for this success story in Texas.
Can you tell us your why you call this African restaurant ‘Kemi’s Kitchen’?
My wife’s name is Kemi. I believe Kemi’s Kitchen just rolled up my tongue due to my evergreen love and affection to my wife. This is my way of forever professing my love to her. My wife is the most beautiful woman in the world. I love and cherish her beyond words. Every time I hear customers call Kemi’s Kitchen, kit makes my heart joyful.
Are there challenges you initially faced when you started this African restaurant in the States?
We actually started slowly since one of the things that I discovered was having a strong foundation. My past experiences in restaurants all over America showed you must have wealth of experience on how to have a strong foundation to build your idea. You just got to excel in what you do best. The question is: what do we do best? We focused on doing that, having the right equipments and staff. Probably 99% of the equipments we using in our restaurant are locally sourced. We don’t import them from anywhere. I tell people all the time that in all African restaurants in United States, we are different and very outstanding. We focus on recipe, improving our recipes and refining our ideas. One of the challenges we ran into by that time was peoples expectation from your African restaurant. You cannot say because some people prepare their own meals in certain ways in their homes, and it tastes certain ways, obviously our own African delicacies taste very good since we receive feedback daily from our customers in the States. We have a huge standard in food preparation, and very unwilling to go less than that. Rather, we are willing to modify our standards to the highest level. Essentially, we train people to enjoy our varieties of food production through our standard practice, unbeatable quality of food safety and Hazard Analysis Control Point (HACP). We always follow the guidelines as required by American law. We do that always before we go commercial daily.
How do you maintain a high standard of health-sanitation in this restaurant?
Every good restaurant in the world begins with food safety. Number one this is not the food quality, but food safety. Once you have food safety in place, then you can worry about food quality. You have to be constantly aware of the room temperature in which these foods are preserved. We take that very seriously. We are under the auspices of Grand Prairie House Inspection where we always score 98 or 99% in food hygiene, control and sanitation.
Can you place a figure on how much you used to start-off this restaurant?
Just to walk through our door is over $25,000. We have the ventilation system which cost about $25,000. You also have infrastructure. To deep into concrete, run a pipeline, accommodation; changing of air condition systems so we can sit under a coll atmosphere, not to talk of signage, furniture; even without mentioning food equipment cost fortune. Each deep freezers we are using cost $6,000. We have two of those and three deep refrigerators which are so costly. We thank God we were able to grow slowly. We kind of built this business overtime gradually. We moved into this building in 2002. We have been working on it and constantly improving on our standards.
Can you tell us how much you think Kemi’s Kitchen is worth as at today?
I never really though of it, may be I will ask my accountant for it. If an investor comes to me to say he wants to buy Kemi’s Kitchen from us and walk away, I will say a million dollars.
We hear few Hollywood artistes, many Nollywood and African musicians regularly visit here…what is your tale on that?
We have had lots of Hollywood, Nollywood and African musicians visit here regularly. This restaurant is a destination point and tourist haven for African celebrities.
Five years down the lane, what height do you think this restaurant would have attained?
I can assure you that in 12 months from now, we will be opening Kemi’s Kitchen in Dallas Forth Worth (DFW), and later Houston, after which we will move to Atlanta and other states. In five years, we would have opened five branches of our African restaurant to meet the urgent demand of our global customers in United States.
Kemi, how will you describe the journey so far in having the best African restaurant?
We give God glory. It has been an interesting journey. I thank God for the kind husband God endowed me with.
If there is another world, will you still marry your husband?
Of course, I will still marry him. He is a great husband, a hard-worker, loving and caring.
What is your message to CNN for making this opportunity available for you?
Let me thank CNN for being the biggest news medium platform worldwide. We are enjoying all your news features and thank you for this rare opportunity.
Finally, will you allow any of your children to follow after your footstep in Catering as a career?
Of course I will. But they must be passionate about it and I pray that God backs them up.