Seyene Gregory who goes by the alias ‘S.G’ is one of Nigeria’s fastest rising chef and food bloggers in the past 2 years.
Just like most young people who are vibrant with ideas and willing to explore, she started her career in sugar craft. Her passion for this is attributed to her experience with working for her mum and most especially wanting to do more with lofty food ideas.
The baker turned Chef Gregory was a household name and influential in the baking sphere in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, but she later moved to Lagos.
“Moving to Lagos was the most depressing and uncertain time of my life”, she says while sharing her story in an interview with Prince Simeon, Lead Blogger of Hypestation Nigeria. From her early days cooking for her mum, to starting her own business and dealing with her new life in Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, Lagos.
How did it all begin?
Seyene Gregory: It began after NYSC actually in 2014, job search wasn’t yielding anything, and so I returned to Uyo to start something for myself. I had been running other businesses in Lagos but that too became slow. I moved back and took some cake classes, then also learnt other stuff online and began. I already had background knowledge from working with my mom in the food business so it was like building on a foundation. So, after the two weeks class, I started my cake business!
Working with your mum, how has that helped you during the process to ‘Chef Gregory’?
Seyene Gregory: I grew up with my mom in the catering business and she loved to cook so much that her house was always filled with people. When we were kids, she would cook several meals and we would be too tired to eat. She was always experimenting, always trying out meals. She made me join her in the business and although I used to grumble a lot, because I just saw it more as a chore, but the early exposure laid a foundation for me.
She had a restaurant at Uyo high School, so every morning before 5am, I would count drinks, and we would prepare the meals. Then dish them into small bowls, count, record and move to the school to make sales.
After sales, we would return, make account, wash up, and the routine would continue. It was serious work, I didn’t have any holiday 😂. And the events, kai!! That one was there too, we would shop all week and then cook all night. Our house was always like a hostel with other chefs and servers, staying throughout the events to carry out the work.
How long has that been till now and how would you describe the journey thus far?
Seyene Gregory: Beautiful! Scary! Exciting! Exhausting! Above all fulfilling four years.
So at what point did you decide to add ‘Chef’ to your bag of skills, pursuing that as a career alongside being a baker?
Seyene Gregory: Can’t say, I just know I wanted to do more. Baking was limiting, and I was getting a bit bored just being confined to cakes, so I decided to explore with food.
Tell us about your experience working in Uyo, decision to move and things you miss.
Seyene Gregory: Well, Uyo was where it all began, and that’s why it will always have a special spot in my heart. There I got massive support and love. I made my first 500,000, got to train over 50 people and had my restaurant, cake shop all in Uyo. All of these wasn’t without its challenges, but it prepared me for the bigger world. My decision to leave was fuelled by my desire for ‘more’.
I knew I was done with that phase and needed to explore, gain more experience and expand my horizon. So, it was scary leaving my comfort zone because I wasn’t hungry there; I had my family and friends for support. I was getting jobs on a weekly, so it was good, but it wasn’t enough for me. I just had to push for more and I am glad I did.
Fast forward to moving Lagos…the early days, getting jobs, work space + dealing with traffic
Seyene Gregory: I moved to Lagos in November of 2017. It was the most depressing and uncertain time of my life 😂🤣. Every day I doubted my decision to move to Lagos, I missed home so much and wanted to run back. I was squatting with a friend in a self-contain apartment; sleeping on the floor, preparing meals outside, making my mixes in her small kitchen.
The distance between my bed and the toilet was like three foot, it was horrible!! I got a job at a hotel on the island with a crappy pay, and 24hours (8am-8am). The following day working shift, I was sleep deprived and moving like a zombie and had to quit! I got another job with a better pay, recommended by a chef I had interned with briefly.
But two weeks into working 7days a week and returning home at midnight daily, they talked about halving my salary. That was what broke the camel’s back, I resigned! They promised to pay for the days I worked (it never came) but the girl had moved on 😂…began my business actively and the rest like they say is history.
Getting active with your business, what steps did you take while starting all over? Rewards that has come so far
Seyene Gregory: The food part wasn’t really moving, hence I focused on the mixes full time. People here love ease and convenience so that moved gave me an edge, so I kept on producing. Also making a lot of noise too online helped.
Then the moi-moi mix sold out and I made a lot of money to register my product business, trademark it and get an apartment. Also building a community of people on Instagram was a tactic that has helped in sales and making my brand more commercial.
Basically what I did was build other aspects of food business, mix production and food blogging. Those took care of me for a while till the orders for meals and cakes resumed. Now the three aspects are giving me income weekly, and I can take care of myself and still reinvest in the business.
Creating videos using Amel and Nkoyo products
Seyene Gregory: Yes, that’s the brand commercialising part…the summary is just getting paid to create recipes using their products and sharing them on my platform.
How many mixes do you have now and what’s the plan for distribution?
Seyene Gregory: so far we have 25 mixes and right now. The inclde Moi-Moi, Akara, Oatmeal, our target are Nigerians living abroad. Though we currently have distributors in the UK and US. Our plan is to get more.
To help diabetic people eat right and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, Chef Gregory will be releasing a cookbook for diabetic people featuring 30 Nigerian meals. She will be releasing the PDF version on her birthday, 11th of May, 2019.