We caught up with Kwame Annom Amfo-Akonnor, the 23-year-old chef popularly known as Bishops who has taken the fine dining scene in Ghana by storm. We got a first-hand glimpse of who he really is and we were given a little taste of Biishville’s popular Ghanaian jollof with gizzard sauce. The meal was delicious. Here’s what we individually had to say about our meal!
Sade: The jollof was tasty and the gizzard was tender. The sauce was well spiced.
Zuu: Extremely good, easily one of the best jollof dishes I’ve had
Awo: The jollof was delicious and the vegetables were cooked to perfection. The sauce was spicy and very tasty.
After our meal, we spoke at length about Biishville with Kwame and touched on various issues regarding the establishment and the industry.
Here’s the full account of our insightful conversation about Biishville with Kwame
Sade: Hi Bishops, *laughs* is that your real name?
Kwame: It’s a nickname I picked up from high school. My name is Kwame Annom Amfo-Akonnor.
Sade: Can you tell us exactly what Biishville is?
Kwame: Growing up I always wanted to own a restaurant. Biishville is a platform to raise funds to open my dream restaurant. Biishville is a one chef food experience. I offer private chef services, a private dining experience, pop up dinning and restaurant take overs.
Zuu: What inspired you to join the culinary arts?
Kwame: Absolute passion and love for food. I was involved in cooking at home when I was growing up because I was the closest to my Mum, so I knew that I’d be involved with food.
Awo: Take us through a typical working day at Biishville
Kwame: When I have an event, I do most of the shopping ahead of the event, usually the day before. However, on the day of the event, I go to the market as soon as I wake up and then I start preparing for the event. After prepping my ingredients, I head to the venue.
Sade: From what we can see your food has an African vibe, what is the inspiration?
Kwame: Basically, what I do is afro fusion. I try to infuse African flavors and an African feel in everything I do. I try to make typical European dishes more African when I cook them. An example is my battered potatoes which is an African take on mashed potatoes.
Zuu: Your food includes a lot of tropical fruits and vegetables is this going to be a theme for Biishville in the long run?
Kwame: *Laughs* When it comes to tropical fruits like coconut for example, the coconut rice I make is different from the regular coconut rice that is available in restaurants because, they use processed coconut milk. I use dried coconut and make the coconut milk from scratch so, the milk is fresh and additive free. The point of all this is giving conventional recipes an added twist. Adding tropical fruits and vegetables is a way to make a recipe my own and make it modern.
Sade: What is your favorite meal to cook? What is the meal that people can’t seem to get enough of?
Kwame: My favourite is Omotuo and groundnut soup with a twist. The people’s favorite is “Mpotompoto with swag” which is one of my best sellers. It is spicy potatoes in beef sauce. Biishville Special Jollof is another of my bestsellers.
Awo: Which chef do you connect to and why?
Kwame: I connect with Chef Selassie of Midunu. I connect with her because she’s African and she also does African food. She left her job with the UN to follow her passion for food.
Zuu: I’m sure you’ve experienced several challenges; can you share some of them with us
Kwame: My first major challenge was centered around finances which is a common problem for startups. I started Biishville with my monthly allowance when I was in school. Since profits started coming in, things have been much better. The second challenge was combining my work with education. My school was in Kumasi so I had to travel back and forth between Accra and Kumasi for gigs. The last one is location, finding suitable locations for the kind of events that I plan. Locations tend to be very expensive. Some venues cost as much as $750. The last event I did was $350, so sometimes, most the profit you would have made would go into paying for the location.
Zuu: What is the most challenging one?
Kwame: It used to be managing my time between work and school, but currently it is money
Sade: in terms of support, how supportive have your friends, family, the media and Ghana as a whole been?
Kwame: *laughs*, My parents, brothers and sister have been very supportive. When I was starting, my mum suggested I finish school first but after a while, they realized I was able to combine the two efficiently and they gave me their full support. They also financially support me once in a while without me asking. My friends have been very supportive, especially on social media. They also help by tasting my new recipes and giving me feedback. And who doesn’t want free food *all laugh*. The media have been amazing. I receive calls from TV networks, from blogs and magazines just to do features. With regards to Ghana, the problem I have with the country is there are no venture capitals and that is a big issue for startups. The private industries help the country with a lot of revenue so this is something that should be looked into.
Sade: starting out have you received any negative feedback?
Kwame: I love those comments more than the positive ones because that makes my concept better. In terms of food, sometimes what I hear is its too spicy, but generally I haven’t heard any condemning comments about my food. But again, the negative feedback helps me improve while the positive ones give me encouragement.
Awo: The culinary industry is constantly changing. How do you keep up with new food trends?
Kwame: Kindly explain what you mean by new trends
Zuu: Let’s say, for example, many people have started using chocolate to cook jollof. It can be called a new trend. How open are you to new trends?
Kwame: Okay so this question is very important because that’s what makes Biishville stand out. I use my instincts a lot. When I go to the market I do not take a list, so the trends do not influence me per se; I usually just go with the flow and what my instincts hint. The baseline is it should have some African value.
Sade: so let’s say there’s a new restaurant doing something new, you won’t be influenced?
Kwame: No, also you’d realize fine dining, and pop up restaurants are quite new to the Ghanaian culinary industry. We have villa grace, Midunu… and I want to be the first to work with and actual fine diner
Awo: How would you define success for Biishville?
Kwame: So far it is not where I want it to be, I am making money from it, yes, but the goal is to open a restaurant. Seeing I haven’t done that yet Biishville isn’t where I want it to be yet. But within a year and 8 months I can say Biishville has been successful.
Sade: you are a year and 8 months?
Kwame: yes, I started February 2016
Zuu: So besides cooking is there any other thing you do on the side?
Kwame: *laughs* I’m into management. I studied management in school so I manage a lot of things. Aside that, I used to model and I’ve acted in a couple of movies. I also love presenting; presenting bodies of work. For example, when I come up with new recipes, I like to present them to the public in slides.
Awo: is Biishville a long term thing ? What are your plans for Biishville?
Kwame: Right now it is looking like a long term thing. When I started last year, the plan was to stop by 2018. I was trying to stop and open my dream restaurant. If I continue for a few years I will be able to.
Zuu: How do you develop strong relationships with your customers?
Kwame: I have a database of all my clients. I send updates all the time so when I have an event they are the first to be notified, before I put it up on social media. Sometimes, I invite some people over for lunch and I communicate with my customers a lot.
Sade: Do you sometimes get financial support from random people who appreciate your work or are interested in what you do?
Kwame: *laughs* No, not yet. I actually wish though. *laughs*. The only financial support currently would be mainly from my brothers, also my best friend Brian helps out a lot.
Awo: what are the average prices for a whole dinning experience?
Kwame: It depends on if you’re hiring a chef, if you’re coming for an event or if you want a private get together. It all depends on a lot of things. My charges are also dependent on the number of hours and the number of people I’m catering for.
Sade: So what do I have to do if I want to eat a Biishville meal?
Kwame: *laughs* You will have to wait for an event, that is what makes it interesting. If you starve people a lot, it keeps them wanting more.
Sade: *laughs* That said, when is your next event?
Kwame: In December, I’ve not set a date yet but it is definitely in December.
Sade: Do you have a set menu or we can pick what we want?
Kwame: So its two things; I have a set menu which changes all the time. Sometimes it changes as often as monthly. Also, the client can tell me what they would like to have
Awo: Do you offer breakfast and lunch because we usually see just dinner stuff?
Kwame: Oh yeah. Breakfast and lunch. I’ve done just one breakfast event; it went well. Mostly they are for private events.
Sade: Do you have any advice for anyone venturing into this industry?
Kwame: Be original, that’s the first thing I’ll say. You have to know the direction you want to take. It will also take a lot of dedication, sacrifices and ups-and-downs. It wasn’t easy. I starved in school for months to do free events when I was starting out. I had to save money so I depended on my provisions in school. You also have to set long term and strategic goals. The major advice I’ll give is, never start a business with debt. Try it out with your own savings or family financial support.
Sade: Is there any issue that bothers you you’d like to address?
Kwame: Aside the location which is a problem for me, I have an issue with time consciousness. Most Ghanaians usually show up late to my events. I make sure my food is ready to eat at a certain time so it becomes a problem when people are late.
For bookings and more information, you can contact Biishville on Twitter and Instagram. You can also send an email to Biishville@gmail.com or call +233-507-448-133
Photo Credit: Tastetales, Naa Oyo, Francis Kokoroko and the in house photographer for the shop