On The Big Showcase today, we reenter the world of Awofala Aderinsola, aka Chef Derin – a creative visionary and culinary entrepreneur at the forefront of Nigeria’s thriving food scene. As the founder and executive chef of The Purple Bistro, Nobs and Berries, and other ventures, Chef Derin’s reputation precedes him as a leading innovator in the industry.
Trained as a chef, Chef Derin began his culinary journey as a humble kitchen assistant in 2015. But his passion for flavour and business acumen quickly propelled him to success, and in 2019 he opened his own restaurant. Since then, his menus have dazzled diners, and his expertise has been sought after by establishments across the region. But Chef Derin’s influence extends far beyond his own businesses.
As a mentor and instructor to aspiring chefs, he has created countless job opportunities and significantly contributed to the industry. He has also partnered with top brands such as Redbull, Desperado, Declan Wine, Oppo, CAPA, and Knorr, solidifying his position as a culinary authority. He is currently the resident chef on the Knorr Celebrity Takeout show, hosting top celebrities, including Johnny Drill, MI Abaga, Tekno, Praiz, Timi Dakolo, Waje, and Omawumi.
Join us as we explore the captivating story and unparalleled talent of Chef Derin – a chef, mentor, and tastemaker who is redefining the culinary landscape of Nigeria.
Overcoming Persisting Entrepreneurial Challenges
As of 2021, two years ago, when we first spoke with Chef Derin, he faced some challenges peculiar to new business owners, including self-doubt, the need for perfection, access to funds and fear of failure and selling. When asked about these challenges, Chef Derin claims to have overcome them. He further says,
“I have moved past self-doubt and the fear of failure or selling because I’ve gained mastery and confidence in my craft. I can now build new businesses from scratch because I’ve done it repeatedly and am no longer afraid of failure. Regarding lack of access to funds, I’ve built solid relationships with financial institutions, and my businesses have yielded steady income.”
Life can be unpredictable, and the business world is even more volatile. Thus, entrepreneurs are presented daily with fresh challenges they must overcome. Chef Derin shares the persisting hurdles he faces even at this advanced stage in his craft.
“While my good partnership with commercial banks and investors can now comfortably give me access to loans up to ten million naira, I still cannot readily access larger amounts such as twenty million naira because of government-related bottlenecks and policies.”
Insights into Chef Derin’s Most Requested Dishes
Chefs, like most creatives, are usually sceptical about choosing favourites regarding their creations, and Chef Derin is no exception. But we managed to make him spill some of the most requested dishes he prepares in his restaurant and as a private chef.
“At the mainland branch of Purple Bistro, our Tropical Jollof Spaghetti is the most ordered dish. At the island branch, our Pancake and Shawarma top the list of customers’ favourite meals.”
Just as there are top projects that creatives love to repeat, there are the least favourites they would instead never do again for various reasons.
Chef Derin shares whether there are dishes he would be happy to never cook again.
“Being a progressive chef and restauranteur means that I need to try new and complicated recipes. It is true that some dishes have longer cooking durations and processes, but it’s part of the job to master these complicated meals. As such, I don’t shy away from cooking any meal.”
Professional Approach to Criticism
Even though most businesses in the hospitality industry, especially the food sector, primarily offer consumable products, the industry is built around service and thrives on customer satisfaction. Chef Derin shares the peculiarities of catering to large crowds and restaurant clients.
“I find catering to a large crowd at special occasions interesting because I get to meet, interact and understand the preferences of different people at once. I also get to ask for immediate feedback, and the joy and satisfaction on the faces of the people I cater to is enough validation that they enjoyed the meals.
Likewise, we know that our customers at Purple Bistro and Nobs and Berries are satisfied when our servers return empty or almost empty plates to the kitchen.”
Customers won’t always be satisfied, no matter the level of excellence attached to your product or service. Chef Derin divulges how he handles disgruntled or rude clients.
“As much as possible, I’m available at my restaurant to observe cooking processes and service delivery. And occasionally, we’ll have that customer who is mildly dissatisfied with a dish because they came with a preconceived idea that a dish has to taste the same way everywhere. So what I do to diffuse the situation is to explain to the customer the recipes used in the dish to give it its distinct taste. And this usually works.”
Furthermore, Chef Derin recounts a peculiar situation online that he handled professionally.
“When we launched Nobs and Berries in 2022, someone rudely gave a negative review. Instead of replying rudely, I thanked them for their feedback and assured them of better service the next time. The good part of the experience was other people’s comments stating that they loved my professional response and customer service.”
Chef Derin’s Business Savvy and Collaborations with Top Brands
Not many people would have handled criticism the same way Chef Derin did. This remarkable level of professionalism explains why he gets invited to some of the best tables in his industry. In addition, Chef Derin shares his experience partnering with major clients, especially Knorr Nigeria.
“It’s a dream come true to work with Knorr Nigeria, a reputable brand I’ve loved since childhood. And the opportunity to work with celebrities on the Knorr Celebrity Takeout has been amazing. It sure feels good.”
In 2021, he told us that one of his aims was to make Purple BIstro a household name. Two years later, Chef Derin admits that this aim has been achieved to a large extent. As for where he sees the business in the coming years, he says,
“I can’t predict the future; only God can. However, we will continue to deliver the best service to remain a household name.”
Although he cannot disclose the names of the businesses he has invested in, Chef Derin shares that he intends to invest in more hospitality businesses. He further mentions that:
“I’m currently partnering with a business in South Africa to make Nigerian dishes more accessible to Nigerians in the country.”
The Art of Culinary Creativity and Lessons from Chef Derin’s Career
Creativity isn’t limited to the artistic items we hang in our spaces or groundbreaking movies we watch. Creativity is also evident in the things we eat and drink, and Chef Derin is a creative through and through. Below he shares how he infuses creativity into his cooking career.
“I’m naturally artistic and tend to infuse creativity in my cooking process. My creativity also reflects in the way I present and serve my dishes to clients. For example, before plating a food, I would have already visualised the presentation form in my head.”
Chef Derin isn’t just a private or celebrity chef with online clout. He is also a passionate instructor who holds masterclasses for upcoming chefs.
“I currently hold private classes where I train a small number of budding chefs, but my retirement plan isn’t just to have branches of my restaurants across the globe, but to also own a culinary school.”
He goes on to share the most common mistakes that upcoming chefs make.
“It’s true that most budding chefs have the zeal to learn and succeed, but most of them are not ready to pass through the right process, which is bad. Most aspiring chefs see successful chefs like me and think we just came out of nowhere, and this wrong mentality affects their progress. I’ve been cooking for seven years, and throughout this time, I’ve never skipped a process because I understand the importance of processes. But unfortunately, many aspiring chefs who attended expensive culinary schools try to skip the industrial kitchen experience because it’s not the fancy part of the profession. Yet, they still want to get paid the big bucks.”
Furthermore, Chef Derin outlines valuable tips for having a successful and long-lasting cooking career.
“The most important part of your cooking career isn’t attending a culinary school where you learn only the basics of any dish or undergoing a limited internship exercise. The most important part is to execute your learning in the real world, which can only happen when you go through a core kitchen experience. So I advise you to take on longer internships, up to 12 months or more, to gather essential experience, even if it’s unpaid.”
Chef Derin finishes with the following words:
“Regardless of how rich you are, you can’t buy experience. You need to work for it.”
You should take a cue from these final words, which apply to any career, not just the cooking profession. Did any part of Chef Derin’s story resonate with you? Serve us your favourite takeaways below.