Shakarah – The African Artisan
By Maggie Overo
It’s a late sunny afternoon in Mayfair and she saunters in, instantly beams, then extends her hand, greeting me with an uncommon commonality. I’m instantly put at ease. This completely astonishes me as I expect this stunning lady to be aloof and haughty, given her beauty, immaculate appearance and obligatory designer handbag.
We start chatting dispensing with the usual formalities. I’m intrigued, keen to know more about her…as she definitely doesn’t look like the usual Chefs I’ve interviewed. This young woman is representative of the new generation of African’s emerging on the International scene, both in the arts, business, politics and music. She represents the new Renaissance African determined to make their presence known and herald their culture.
The word “shakara” means to “floss”, pose or show off. Nigerian pigeon English made famous by the late, great Afro Jazz musician Fela Kuti. Now the pseudonym adopted by this business woman for her culinary creations. Best described as the new evolution of African cuisine, an African fine dining experience. Presenting African food with an elegant flair – familiar enough for mass appeal yet unique enough to enchant London’s proudest food snobs.
Born and bred in London, England she towed the family line. Excelling academically (alumni: University of London) a fully qualified Lawyer who moved into Consultancy then to set up the Shakarah business. Winning contracts in 2017 for the One Africa music fest featuring Jidenna, Davido, Tiwa Savage, and Tekno. Then, the African Pride Awards and Hair in Motion. How did this happen? A fledgling Chef making monumental waves and winning mammoth contracts? It’s the food! Tasting events wowed audiences leading to a flood of bookings. Demand has been so high Shakarah has bought a stake in an events management company, teaming up to provide the complete Event Catering and management experience.
African nouvelle cuisine is still a nuance. The ambition is to bring this amazing food to the wider public – make jollof rice as typical as Chinese fried rice, Thai green curry or Indian tandoori chicken.
I feel the passion when she speaks about her vision. It resonates with me and I’m enthralled – I’ve become a believer. Then I taste her food and I’m now a convert. I’ve never seen African food presented so creatively, artistically even; yet there is no compromise on the taste – it is authentically African. She sniffles a laugh as I gobble down the array of dishes presented from North, South, West and East Africa. Then in her quintessential high browed British accent switches to colloquial cockney “...told you mate”!
What does the future hold?
Chef Shakarah is a phenomenal culinary expert on the rise and woman to watch!