Welcome to Peckham Levels, please introduce yourselves!
TOBY: “I’m Toby Oladokun, founder of West African street food brand, Plantain Kitchen. I founded Plantain Kitchen in November 2019 in response to the lack of representation of West African cuisine in the food-to-go industry. I have a background in food marketing and I spent years crafting my knowledge until I felt ready to take the leap of faith and start my own business.”
SIKA: “I am Sika, Toby’s Mother. I prepare all the Plantain Kitchen food and make sure the kitchen is running smoothly. “
Tell us a bit about how the Plantain Kitchen journey began?
“My market research was done by the time I was 13 when my friends would take home containers of my Mum’s food! In 2018 I started dedicating one hour a week to the idea, playing around with menus and designing logos.
I handed in my notice in October 2019, but I didn’t tell my Mum! Soon after I left my job I found a space at a market in Hackney where me and my Mum could set up a stand. We served food from 11am – 11pm and the response was insane!
We made a profit on the first day so I thought to myself “wow, I’ve done this in six weeks, imagine what I could do in six months”. I told my Mum about the profit we made, and then I told her I had left my job!”
Sika, what was your first thought when Toby told you he handed in his notice at work?
“At first, i thought he had another job. I didn’t know that he was coming to tell me I had to use my skills to cook! It was shocking but I wasn’t worried.”
What would you say makes Plantain Kitchen Unique?
TOBY: “For me, it’s how we’ve been able to make West African cuisine look so beautiful, it is something people have never seen before.”
SIKA: “When i was a child in Ghana, my Nan said I should be an air hostess but i loved to cook. Even when i was 8 years old I would take onions and tomatoes from my aunties and pretend I was cooking. I would call my cousins and we would play together pretending to cook and sell our food.”
Toby, tell us more about your connections to South London and Peckham…
“I used to go to school in Battersea, my Dad would pick me and my sister up from school and we would get on the train from Battersea Park to Peckham Rye.
To get home to my Mums, we had to get the 63 bus from outside the station, which is opposite Peckham Levels. Back then it was the Sainsburys car park and 20 years later, I am here now opening my own business, it’s mad!”
Why did you choose Peckham Levels as the first home for Plantain Kitchen?
“Well, there is a strong connection between Peckham and Plantain Kitchen. To be in a place where West African culture is so predominant was absolutely the key for us. At Peckham Levels we are able to provide West African cuisine to a diverse range of people who haven’t experienced it in this way before.
I looked at competitors but the vibe wasn’t right. Peckham Levels provides a lot more support, care and interest in the person and product. It was pretty much a quick decision. The overall environment here is such a good vibe, it’s really supportive.”
In five years time, where do you see Plantain Kitchen?
In 5 years time I would like to have 10 locations all around london!
As part of my contribution to the Peckham Levels community investment scheme, I am going to local schools to speak about career progression and entrepreneurship. So in 5 years time I would like to have helped 5 young people establish their own business. And I’d like to do some work with the community in my Mums town in Ghana.
Make our mouths water! What should people be ordering from the Plantain Kitchen menu?
I think you should come and try everything! Recently we’ve launched Suya prawns and Jollof rice and it’s been a big success at the markets.
You’ll see that we have an item on the menu that allows you to try a bit of everything, so you can learn about West African Cuisine in an accessible way.
Follow them on Socials https://www.instagram.com/plantainkitchen