Not exactly new in this part of the world, JUWE
OLUWAFEMI writes that finger foods or what is popularly referred to as ‘small chops’ are now the in-thing at corporate events and other social gatherings.
His name truly belies his status and classification. Little wonder he is known and addressed as the King of Small Chops. Welcome to the yummy and sumptuous world of Saheed Kekere-Ekun.
Not a few party freaks will deny not having had a taste of Saheeto’s range of small chops. Saheeto, by the way is the corporate name of Saheed Kekere-Ekun fondly call him.
At a recent birthday party organised for Mr. Seye Kehinde, Chief Executive Officer of Media Techniques Limited, publishers of the City People titles in Ibadan, Saheeto while explaining the concept of small chops in Nigeria and its wide acceptance in the country, noted that, “Small chops are fingers or tiny foods like Chicken Kebab, Samosa, Spring Rolls, etc.”
Kekere-Ekun who is the owner and Managing Director of Saheeto International while reminiscing the beginning of his business said: “I thought of something different from the usual dishes that we were used to and I thought small chops is a good idea.”
Speaking on his beginning, Saheed Kekere-Ekun recalled that some years ago, he sought employment as a waiter, only for him to end up in a restaurant kitchen, as a chef. He didn’t like it then, but he was to later realise what the kitchen held in store for him. While there, he learnt the art of small chops and today, it is his source of livelihood.
And so big has Saheeto International grown today that it boasts of wide range of services which has earned Kekere-Ekun the nickname, “King of small chops.” This is unarguably so, because his catering outfit, Saheeto International renders services that are so established, that he caters for top notch people in the country and abroad.
How times change! These days, blue chip executives who do not have the time to organise elaborate parties now throw their burdens at the feet of finger food service providers, who are always too eager to fill this vacuum.
The business of catering has no doubt taken a new turn with the introduction of finger foods also called small chops. Of course, invited guests are always looking for surprises. They are tired of being served routine food items at party buffets. But the convenience and portable menu revolution with tiny foods like - chicken kebab, samosa, spring rolls, shrimps, barbecue chicken, barbecue, fish, asun (barbeque goat), chapman drink, among others that are coming to party tables, now arouse a robust appetite, leaving a satisfying option.
Aside the culinary satisfaction, more and more people are making good livelihood from engaging in small chops business even in Nigeria where buffet used to be most cherished by guests. Judging by the passion guests munch finger foods and the accompanying refreshment at most functions, there is no denying the fact that Small chops is fast taking a different shape these days.
Cocktails are becoming incomplete without small chops or ‘finger foods.’ Probably, its availability in sizeable chunks and variety are some of the attractions to discerning guests at most parties.
Eunice Ohis, MD, Ounice Finger Chops, Ikeja, has over 20 people on her payroll and thinks the business is thriving because people are tired of doing things the same way or relishing on same menu at every event. “Small chop is commonplace in cocktails today and a result of experiment on doing something differently.” For Eunice, “the success of the experiment is because people for long, want something different from the usual dishes that they were used to and whoever does that, will win their patronage.”
The enterprising cook says the chunks are not in anyway ‘food in a hurry’ as some think. “A lot of cookery art, ingredient and attention go into preparation of the least of small chops. I think small chops is a good idea, an alternative to full menu and cheaper for event organisers.”
She recalls that the immediate success of small chops as a food option at most parties and its flourish as a business enterprise for many in the country today, is as a result of the great deal of encouragement from the public and customers.
Michael Afolaranmi, chief executive officer, 12 Baskets Foods Ltd agrees that the industry is growing at a fast pace, as more people are beginning to reckon with that aspect of catering.
“People can no longer ignore the prime place we hold at corporate and private functions. Our prices are homogenous and they differ. If it is an event of N50, 000, you will have our waiters on ground to do the serving. They will be on standby,” explains Afolaranmi.
Beyond the great taste, small chops company often liaise with nutritionists and notable chefs to ensure quality control system even right from raw materials purchase, selection and combination.
“I travel all over to get ideas. When I started out in 2002, I had about 15 recipes, but today, I have about 70, but also try to develop our home grown recipes. At times, I decide that we should do the barbecue differently and when it turns out fine, I give it any name that comes to my mind. We often modify it here and there before introducing it into the market,” Saheeto adds enthusiastically.
Eunice however warns, “The combination of wrong food selection and ingredients with little or no nutrient can result in food poisoning, so you need to be pay attention to details in order to always make your clients’ guests have a memorable outing.”
However, the managing director or rather, chief cook of the small chop company says there has been little or no complain about quality of small chops as guests relish satisfactorily on their delicious chunks.
Although, the services of these outdoor food providers are not only complementary to the services of hotels and full-blown hospitality concerns, but they nevertheless have overtime grown from strength-to-strength to become people oriented at events and parties.
Increasingly, the demand for this kind of convenient and stress-free service has created some kind of competition among existing small chop outfits. Most of them creatively make new recipes of variety.
“When I started out in 1992,” says Saheed Kekere-Ekun, “I had about 11 recipes, but today, I have about 90. I travel all over to get ideas, but also try to develop our home grown recipes. At times, I decide that we should do the chicken differently and when it turns out fine, I give it a name. When I travel, I get ideas but we often modify it before we introduce it to the market.”
Saheed Kekere-Ekun adds that there are health benefits attached to what they offer.
“We want to promote small chop because it is less fattening. We have tried to remove the fat and oil as much as possible in our processes. And you won’t really have to bother about cholesterol,” he explains.
In the case of Olanrewaju Musibau Jimoh, chief executive officer, Laredo International Company, he says his outfit is poised to serve the people, through innovative and hygienic protection to people of different tribes and culture, assist in party planning with adequate events management services that can stand the storm whether in the course of business transaction or social get-together.
“I won’t say customer loyalty is so much because whatever we realise, we put back in the company. The business is doing very well and we’re still growing. One can’t put a certain figure, but by the grace of God, we’ve been highly favoured by people recommending us to others,” he explains.
Some small chops are meanwhile already prepared; implying that customers just buy them, take them home and fry. “The idea behind preparing it for you to buy and fry at home on your own is to save the stress of making it yourself.@ Roland Amaefula who sells it explains. “What I sell basically are frozen chicken, turkey, chicken wings, gizzard and the likes. I observe that some people actually come to ask for samosa and spring rolls which I didn’t have then. I soon started to buy and sell them, and I must admit, it is really good business.
Lagos is a busy place and a day hardly passes without having a party - there could be some breakfast meetings and trust me, at ninety percent of those meetings, there is always small chops available, so I can say it is really good business. We hardly have unsold samosa and spring rolls, rather what we often experience are higher demand for these two. Business, I must confess has been fantastic!” he noted.