Martha’s Kitchen is one of Ibadan’s finest dining establishments, situated along Magazine Road in the Jericho area of the city.  The restaurant which has been around for almost two decades is largely responsible for revolutionising the culinary standard you witness in Ibadan today. Mrs Adesola Ige, restaurateur and owner of Martha’s Kitchen explains the challenges and triumphs of running a successful restaurant in Ibadan and states what has made Martha’s Kitchen so successful.

How long have you been in this business?

It started officially in 1999 and November 22nd, 2016 will be our 17th year anniversary.

Where did you get the idea to start Martha’s Kitchen?

It was not an idea per se. Cooking and catering for me have been a passion that transcended into business. While growing up, I found cooking as something interesting and quite frankly, I studied Computer Science and Mathematics but catering is what I have always loved and wanting to make a living out of it was an easy decision. The situation, however, presented itself in 1999, when my hubby and I were in between jobs at about the same time barely one year after marriage. Fortunately, he also had a similar dream. That made a tough start fun.

Does this mean that you never took any catering course?

Well actually, I have taken some catering and management courses over the years. I have attended some catering training both in and outside the country.

Who inspired your passion for cooking?

Well, I was very fortunate for the kind of parents I have. I was already cooking at the age of 8.  My dad was the one that inspired me; he does the cooking at home every Sunday, and when I started professionally he was one of my biggest supporters. He took me to different restaurants in Lagos and through that I became inherently inspired by him even though my mum is also a great cook.

What have been the changes that you have observed in the catering business over time in Ibadan?

There have been lots of changes over time. Back in 1999, I could count the number of restaurants around, but now, there is practically one on every corner. Menus have evolved from ‘indigenous only’ to other Nigerian dishes and even intercontinental ones. The service too has improved a lot, so I can say that we aren’t doing badly.

Bearing in mind the competitive market you are in, what makes Martha’s Kitchen so unique?

Three things! Good quality food, great presentation and a spruced-up environment. I do believe that everybody has a niche, and every brand is known for different things. We at Martha’s are known for the good food, and the clean environment our clients enjoy here on a daily basis.

How do you ensure quality and retain customers in your line of work?

Quality is about maintaining the aim and vision of your business. It is what motivates you into meeting the needs and demands of your customers in all ramifications. Consistency is also important.

Apart from being a restaurateur, what other things do you do?

Virtually everything I do has something to do with catering.  At Martha’s Kitchen, we do outdoor catering for all occasions within and outside Ibadan. We cater for weddings, birthdays, naming and burial ceremonies, business luncheons, etc. for our teeming clients (individuals and corporate). We are into event planning and management.  We also do kitchen and canteen set-up and maintenance for industries; We overhaul kitchens and train chefs too. It's quite a bit that we do really, but all tied to catering in one way or another.

Do you still join your chefs in the kitchen?

Yes, I do. If I am at work, then the kitchen is where you’ll likely find me.

What can you say about the catering business in Nigeria?

It is quite tough, but we are getting better every day, the current state of the economy has even made people look inward and patronise a lot of local products. I remember some years ago the only place where you would get vegetables were supermarkets, but we now patronise local farmers and do not depend much on imported vegetables and peppers. It hasn’t been a smooth sail, but we are getting better.

Do you eat at other eateries apart from your kitchen?

Yes, I do PURPOSEFULLY, I do hang out with friends in other places. You need to know what is happening in the industry and consistently benchmark your offerings with best practice, not only locally but also internationally.

What is your favourite amala spot in Ibadan?

My favourite spot for amala is still Martha’s Kitchen because we make nice and traditional amala as well in a clean environment.

What do you like about Ibadan?

Ibadan is peaceful; everything is calm in the city, and I love that.

What do you hate about Ibadan?

Actually, I do not hate anything about Ibadan. Ibadan people are fun-loving and accommodating. The only thing that we could improve, maybe, should be the need to embrace global dynamics in work and business.

How do you relax?

Most of the time I prefer to relax with my family because my job is very demanding, so the little time I have, I prefer to spend with them. I also love to watch movies once in a while I do that with my friends.

Tell us one thing about you that people don’t know?

I push my staff to optimal levels to get the best out of them so that our customers are happy and sometimes, I must admit, I drive them too hard.

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