A first-time visitor to his culinary centre could be forgiven if he mistakes him for someone from the middle belt area of Nigeria. But Sossou Elias, although born and bred in Lagos, is proudly a Togolese chef and he never fails to mention it to people he comes across.
Founder, Association of Togolese Professional Chef in Nigeria (ATPCN), Sossou is the managing director and chief executive officer of Elias Food Limited.
With an OND in hospitality management and culinary art, the young chef expertise cuts across Chinese, French, Lebanese dishes, Asian fusion, West African and North African cuisine.
Perhaps another probable factor that may likely have contributed to his versatility and charisma is Sossou’s bilingual nature. He can speak as well as write English and French quite fluently. This partly because he left the shore of Nigeria with his parents at the height of the ‘Ghana Must Go’ era when foreigners were sent packing from the country.
Following the exodus, he had both his early primary and secondary schools in Gbodjome, Lome, the State capital of Togo. He returned to Nigeria in 2008 to further his skills in culinary art.
On why he opted for such course, Sossou disclosed that he chose culinary because he loves food and would love to bring his wealth of experience into the domain of Africa culinary.
In his words…
“I was influenced by Chef Innocent Sossou Sunday, my senior brother who is the Sous executive at Southern Sun Hotel. Although I must admit that the journey was not a smooth one. As a child, I have repeatedly watched my father confronting a cousin who is a chef asking ‘How can a man like you choose to lick spoon as a job?’ (laughs).
“Unfortunately, he did not live to see how far I have come in the same culinary industry. We are four boys and a girl. My mum had always left foodstuffs for us to cook by ourselves and I was the one who loves food among the lot. My grandmother was an advocate of hygiene in any cooking environment, maybe because she is from Ghana and she inspired me a lot too.
“Aside from my family, I have other mentors here in Nigeria such as Chef Punshak Kefas, a development chef at Nestle Plc and Chef Eric, the chief executive officer of Hospitality business school (HBS) who took the grill and take culinary to another level. On the international scene, I would pick Chef Paul Sorgule as another great influencer. He is a famous America chef, a blogger, writer and educator.
At the height of his career, Sossou became the Sous chef at LillyGate Hotel in Lagos. He married his longtime heartthrob, Djondo Justina, a trendy fashionista and they are married with two kids.
When asked what other profession he would have chosen were he not to be a chef, the amiable fellow grinned and said ‘Architecture’ because of his undying love for arts and designs.
What would he regard as his happiest and saddest moments? Hear him…
“My happiest moment has always been when I am either on the grill or with my family during vacations. On the other hand, I regret not knowing God at my early stage in life just as I regret collaborating with wrong people in the past. This is why I keep saying if I have anything to change about me, it has to be my emotional part,” he stressed.
The chef also described his Togolese Professional Chefs Association as a registered body with a vision to train and raise quality chefs who would create a positive impact and preserve the integrity of the profession as well as repackage our traditional cuisine.
“Now we have a chapter in different States like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Akwa Ibom, Kwara and many Togolese chefs in the diaspora. To become a member, you must be a Togolese by parentage and must be a cook, chef, or culinary lover or students or all hospitality workers or nutritionist.
“Secondly, since ‘food is a culture’, I believe such tradition needs to start with kids as fun so that when they grow, it will become part of them. That is why Elias Food was created, in collaboration with chef Thelma Ikretsero, to teach people the basics of cooking and healthy consumption with long-term goals of building more reputable chefs in the industry,” he said.
The partner, Ikretsero was bron in Ashaka, Delta State and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. She is also a graduate of CMK Culinary School in Lagos.