Modupe Emmanuel, with first and second degrees in Law from Cardiff and University of Nottingham

Modupe Emmanuel is a wife and a mother. She is the Head Chef of Salt Lagos, a fast growing culinary company, based in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. Modupe studied law at Cardiff University and then completed a Masters in International Commercial Law at the University of Nottingham. After being called to the Bar in Nigeria, Modupe practiced Law for 4 years and then decided to pursue her passion for the love of good and quality food. In order to formalize her passion, Modupe went on to train at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Paris and obtained a Grand Diplome in both pastry and cuisine. Whilst studying in Paris, she was among the top performers in her Intermediate Pastry class. Following her completion of the Grand Diplome, she successfully completed an apprenticeship at Le Mini Palais Restaurant, Champs Elysses, Paris. Her success at Le Cordon Blue is evidenced by her appointment as an official representative of Le Cordon Bleu in Nigeria.Upon her arrival in Nigeria, Modupe started Salt Lagos, a quality culinary service provider in 2014  and has since established herself and her team as one of the top culinary service providers in Lagos. Salt Lagos is well known for the unique desserts, cakes and pastries.

Early Years

Growing up was fun and quite interesting for me. I grew up with a lot of my Aunties and uncles. My parents ensured my siblings and I were well brought up and they didn’t tolerate nonsense. Their discipline and love keeps me grounded even till date.  I know nothing is handed to you on a platter of gold and you have to work hard for anything you want. I also learnt a lot about God as my parents didn’t joke about church. That foundation definitely shaped me. My parents ensured that we all did house chores and helped in the kitchen; as a result, I developed my cooking skills by spending a lot of time in the kitchen. For instance, my mum’s policy was, ( and still is), if you wanted to eat pounded yam, you must be able to pound yam. So, lot of my cousins, actually learnt how to pound yam in parent’s house.

When and why did you start your business? How did you come about the name?

Salt Lagos  was established in May 2014 and my first event was my friend’s wedding. However, my culinary journey began way before then. I would cook and bake for people for free, just to experiment. I started Salt Lagos because of my passion for food. I mean, I started pounding yam for instance at the age of 5, (believe it or not).

Initially, I was in the legal profession. I studied law at Cardiff University, obtained a Masters degree in International Commercial Law at the University of Nottingham, and practiced law for 4 years. However, I was not fulfilled and I knew there was more to my existence than just doing core litigation. I knew I was passionate about food and that was the only thing that excited me. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I was able to converse with my parents about undergoing training at the prestigious Le cordon Bleu, Paris. Subsequently, in 2013, I obtained my Grand  Diplome both in pastry and cuisine.  I worked for a few months at Le Mini Palais, a restaurant on Champs Elysee, Paris. Afterwards, I moved back to Nigeria and started salt Lagos. The inspiration for the name came whilst in my apartment in Paris. The Holy Spirit directed me to the scripture in the Bible that says you are the salt of the earth in Matthew 5:13. Interestingly, the pastor preached about the scripture in church the next day, thereby giving me the confirmation I needed and I knew it was the right fit. I knew I wanted it to have Lagos in it because that is where I call home. It’s where I was born and grew up. I wanted the company to be associated with Lagos no matter where our products ended up.

Uniqueness in style of cakes

I always ascribe the distinctiveness and nice taste to God. I tell people that I don’t think I’m doing anything differently but the Holy Spirit helps us bake or create these desserts. Sometimes, I get inspiration from God even when I least expect. I also try as much as possible to use the best quality ingredients. I’ll never compromise when it comes to the ingredients even if it’s very expensive. Quality and taste are extremely important to me.

Would you say your cakes are pricey?

Pricey is relative to be honest. Interestingly, I’ve gotten comments from fellow bakers that I undercharge. When we think of the quality of ingredients we use, one would realize that our prices are quite reasonable.

How important is it for bakers to always reinvent themselves? What do you do to upgrade your skills?

It is very important for bakers to reinvent themselves if they want to be relevant and stay relevant in the society. You can be a hit today but tomorrow, someone else has better products.  The dessert world has definitely evolved since I left Le Cordon Bleu in 2013. I therefore cannot stay stuck in 2013 or just rely on what I learnt then. Consequently, I try as much as possible to go for courses, read books, keep up with the latest trends and try out new recipes.

How important is it to get the right baker for your special occasion?

For me, the food, desserts or cakes at an event are very important.  I feel some people go to parties just for the treats! Sometimes, people remember your event because of what they’ve eaten, whether good or bad. It’s always humbling for instance, when people tell me that they ask if the dessert is ‘Salt’, whilst at events.

Have you ever come to the rescue of someone who had ordered from someone who messed them up?

Definitely! It happens often.

What is the most exotic cake you have made? 

Hmmm… that’s a tough one. We tend to do quite a few interesting combinations. But I think one of my favourites is the chocolate brownie cake which has three layers of chocolate brownies, a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough, a layer of vanilla cheesecake, filled with our signature salted caramel and then covered in chocolate ganache. I like the different textures in the cake and it’s very rich.

What is the day in your line of work that you can never forget?

The day I’ll never forget was when I just started in 2014. A customer (of blessed memory), whom I met on Instagram, had ordered a cake, and it was a special type of cake. Initially, I wanted to send my driver to deliver it as I had another event that day, but I felt led to deliver it to her myself so that I could also meet her. On my way to her house, the cake started having cracks but I thought it would be fine. As soon as I got to her front door, and she greeted me, the cake literally fell apart! Like literally split! She kept encouraging me and telling me not to worry and was thinking of ways we could put the cake back together. She then told me not to worry that she would give her sister another gift. She took the cake and said she would give the kids to eat. As I left her house, she gave me a gift and said we entrepreneurs must support one another. That day, her kindness melted my heart. God also taught me a lesson that day. Sometimes, things are out of your control and irreparable but God can always step in and make it work.

Challenges

We face a lot of challenges every day in the business, but we strive daily to become better. We take constructive criticisms. We let go of the toxic things some customers say or do to us and just work on satisfying our customers as best as we can. The prices of things in the market also make things difficult, but we have to do what we can to maintain our standards as well as please our customers.

Final words

I believe it is important for business owners to support one another, rather than pulling each other down. It is interesting that we experience a lot of negativity from fellow entrepreneurs/business owners, who afford little or no grace.  It’s important that we criticize constructively rather than in a derogatory manner. I am of the firm opinion that when you are forgiving, you receive the same type of grace when you fall short. This is a principle I keep in mind when dealing with businesses.

In conclusion, I believe I was able to achieve my dreams by the grace of God and through perseverance and hard work. I would just encourage people to follow their passion. Don’t give up! Sometimes, your idea(s) might seem silly or impossible to achieve, but keep pressing and take each day as it comes. It’s important to surround yourself with the right people and have a good support system. Keep working hard and Trust God to see you through, no matter how tough the journey seems.

Kemi Ajumobi

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