Vendor Spotlight: Souldeliciouz
Run by wife and husband duo Joyce and Tunde Iyinolakan, Souldeliciouz bring you the best of Nigerian and Jamaican cuisines. Their feel-good, flavourful, and comforting dishes are made with passion for an authentic soul food experience.
Can you tell me about how Souldeliciouz got started?
I run the business with my husband. It’s an idea that’s been around for almost twenty years, but really kicked off when I met my husband and he kind of pushed the idea of starting the company because my passion has always been about cooking and creating dishes, but I found business a bit daunting. And so, we put our mind and soul into it and got the business registered in 2012 and started trading by 2013. We’re from Nigeria originally – and the food we do is Nigerian and Jamaican – but we started with Nigerian food at first. Where we live in South London has a huge Nigerian community, and that’s where we tried to sell our food. But because of the way I sounded, because I sound more British, it was hard for me to sell Nigerian food to Nigerians; they assumed I couldn’t cook. What they don’t know is that I wasn’t born in this country. I came here at a young age, but I already knew how to cook a lot of food by then. So, we started giving out free food in order to build trust with customers, so they could taste before buying.
"We pride ourselves on doing things traditionally."
Word of mouth did the rest. Every pound we made we put back into the business, buying one piece of equipment at a time and eventually getting to where we are now. I’ve always wanted other people to know our food, so I thought it would be good if we branched out and reached more demographics with our business. We partnered with catering companies so people could taste traditional, authentic food, the way you’re meant to have Nigerian food. Other businesses might try to make it look pretty or make it less spicy so it’s easier to sell, but we pride ourselves on doing things traditionally. And we don’t just cook the food and deliver, we also produce all the sauces and spices we use ourselves, and we sell those online. Plus, we make flavoured toothpicks called Qoolpicks; it comes in either Peppermint or Cinnamon flavours, but we have to new flavours coming out soon: Strawberry Mint, and Lemon Mint.
Where does the name come from?
My husband was actually the one who came up with the name Souldeliciouz. Well, he came up with the idea to use that name. Originally, I was going to call it JJ’s Soul Food, but Souldeliciouz was my Yahoo address at the time and he told me I should use it for the business. And now we own the name! Nobody can use it, or we get paid.
You said that you and your husband come from Nigeria, so where does the Jamaican influence come in?
"There are dishes for everybody, but we do love spice."
I came to the UK as a child, and my husband came here as an adult. I went to secondary school in London and was around a lot of Jamaican or Caribbean kids. Lots of my friends were from the Caribbean, so that influenced what food I saw around me. There’s a huge difference between Jamaican food and other Caribbean dishes, because Jamaican food is much spicier than other Caribbean foods. I love spicy food and found that Jamaican food blended really well with Nigerian dishes, so we brought the two together.
The two cuisines have a lot in common because they’re seasoned similarly. The taste is similar, the spice level is similar, and we both cook our meats really well. Not all our dishes our spicy, and sometimes we’ll get people asking whether we can make it less spicy, but I’d rather suggest a different dish than to compromise on the spice, because otherwise you’re not getting the full experience. There are dishes for everybody, but we do love spice.
"From a very young age I learned to cook in Nigeria from my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mum."
Who taught you to cook?
From a very, very young age I learned to cook in Nigeria from my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mum. I didn’t have sisters to play with so I spent a lot of time watching the women in my family cook. Then I would go play with neighbouring kids and I would show them how to cook – we’d build a little campfire and put empty tin cans on the fire, add some oil to make a nice stew. That’s how I would play when I was a little girl. My mum was also a very good cook and had her own shop in Nigeria and, before she died, I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen. Cooking had always been her passion, and it’s funny because I never realised that I was following in her footsteps until much later. It was just always something I loved doing, just cooking and making people happy. And I think that when I was little, cooking was also a coping thing for me, because my mum died when I was just six years old and it kept me feeling close to her.
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