Blog // 12.02.2010

"A Million Paths to a Single Dream"

Article by Aba H

At the age of ten, a little girl moved to the United Kingdom feeling lost and homesick.ut Twenty-one years later that little girl, namedAdwoa Hagan-Mensah, found her calling and is bringing a piece of Ghanaian cuisine to food-lovers in London! As a Ghanaian living in the UK Adwoa has enjoyed the best of both worlds as co-founder of a successful restaurant and catering business.

Bringing a piece of Ghana to London

Adwoa and her husband Lloyd run the UK’s first professional Ghanaian catering business in London –Jollof Pot. They specialize in corporate catering, parties & weddings and even have a cookery school. Some of the delicious dishes served at Jollof Pot are Kelewele: ripe plantain seasoned with garlic, ginger and cloves and Ntroba Fro- a mix of aubergine, chicken and rosemary. Adwoa moved around during her childhood and appreciates having experienced a variety of cultures.  She brings this into her creations of mouthwatering meals by fusing traditional dishes with contemporary techniques; a combination which has now become Jollof Pot’s trademark. They have proved that non-Africans too appreciate traditional dishes as non-Africans make up a large portion of their client base.

Anchored to Africa

Adwoa was born in Ghana thirty-one years ago to Ghanaian parents. In order to provide the best schooling for their daughters, they sent Adwoa and her sister to boarding school, first in Kenya then in the UK. But they made sure she maintained family values.  “They were very insistent that my sisters and I go home (to Uganda) on school holidays and to be honest that kept me very grounded. I learnt to speak Fanti (a Ghanaian dialect) and to cook all the traditional Ghanaian dishes,” she says about her upbringing. Adwoa has enjoyed cooking from a young age. She fondly remembers making peanut butter cookies and crepes for her younger sisters during her holidays.

In fact, Ghanaian food created both a longing for and a link to home in the then teenager.  “Oh I really missed African food. Because I went to boarding school so young, that was one of the things that really made me homesick” Adwoa recalls, reflecting on the time it took for her to adjust to life in the UK. Because Adwoa returned home each holiday and learned to cook Ghanaian dishes, she maintained her appreciation for Ghanaian food and was able to mature her recipe repertoire.

The inspiration

This business woman had big ambitions as a youngster. Although not very academic in school, she attained a Higher National Diploma in Hospitality Management and subsequently a BA in Business Management from Greenwich University, as university was the only path she was expected to take. After university, Adwoa met her husband and they decided to start the business that would become Jollof Pot.

Being a hands-on wife, mother and businesswoman hasn’t been easy but Adwoa shares that her motivations have been her daughter and God: “I know we would have never have come this far without God’s constant hand and blessings on the business. Every opportunity has come at the right time when he thinks we are ready to tackle the next challenge” she says. Leaving something behind for her 2 ½ year old daughter –who is already business minded and insists on collecting small change to store in a safe place- has also pushed Adwoa on.

What’s in the future?

Adwoa continues to dream big and strives to achieve her dreams and anyone who tries to tell her otherwise has something coming their way! A piece of advice Adwoa gives to TEMPO readers about achieving your dreams is “never let anyone tell you ‘No’, or you can’t do something. Never give up on a dream as there are always a million paths to achieving a single dream…A lot of people told me or gave me the impression that I would amount to very little. The more they made me feel like a waster that more they inspired me to achieve something.”

Jollof Pot has received much media coverage from being contestants in the BBC Foods show The Restaurant to being featured in British newspapers and magazines such as The Independent, Restaurant Magazine and Marie Claire. They will be appearing on Master Chef too. “Our aim was to start the first main stream Ghanaian restaurant in central London” Adwoa says. They are currently speaking to investors about opening a restaurant next year but in the meantime the focus remains on the catering arm of the business.

Adwoa and her husband remain anchored to Africa by keeping in touch with family both in Ghana and in East Africa. They follow general and business news in these areas especially since they one day plan to relocate to Ghana and replicate their business there.

What to do with time

Our Shine Lady enjoys reading tragic life stories and is currently readying Ugly, a book about a Caribbean woman’s recollection of her abusive childhood. When she is not running around London keeping the business moving or creating fabulous dishes, Adwoa enjoys spending her free time with her daughter or being active outdoors.

 

 

One Response to “"A Million Paths to a Single Dream"”

  1. Adrienne E. Cooke says:

    Enjoy reading this article. I especially enjoy eating Jollof Rice. I started a book club 11 years ago, we met at my house and we ate Jollof Rice. I hope to make a visit to London and plan to eat at the Jollof Pot. I have visited Ghana several times and when I returned back to New York I talk about Ghana to my friends and co-workers. They enjoy my stories and have asked when I return to Ghana can they come with me. Thus, I will be taking a group to Ghana next March on a 12 day trip. Please check out my webpages: http://www.sikakokootravelclub.com

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