We had the good fortune of connecting with Kavachi Ukegbu and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kavachi, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
As a child I saw my mother and my father build their businesses from the ground up. My mother owns one of the oldest African restaurants in Houston and my father who was a business professional and entrepreneur helped her to develop the brand and grow her clientele. As I grew older I honed my love for art and design by getting my Associate in Marketing and Bachelors Degree in Merchandising and Hotel Management at Hilton College. Although I grew up helping my mom at her restaurant, I never saw myself as a chef until I went to school and fell in love with the art of cooking.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
After I develop the concept of Grubido it became very important to me to share my West African culture and food with the world. I started doing pop-ups to introduce popular West African dishes such as FuFu, Egusi Soup, Jollof rice, Abacha w/Fish, and Garnish Snail to name a few. The pop-ups became very popular in Houston and grew from 30 people to 150 people per event. It soon became known as the Art Of FuFu Pop Up and led me on a journey to develop a West African cookbook affectionately called the Art of FuFu cookbook. Early on my community didn’t really understand the purpose of the cookbook and how to receive it so it made me have to work harder to bring my vision to life and make my community proud. I flew to Nigeria to get photos and recipes to make sure that the cookbook would be as authentic as possible. Some days it seemed impossible but I knew that I couldn’t give up. Eventually, the process became very expensive with travel and copyrights but as luck would have it, I received a call to host a FuFu Pop Up and Whole Foods Central Market. The response was so amazing that I was contacted by PBS to be apart of the Houston Cookbook TV Show. That appearance caught the eye of chef Marcus Samuelsson who featured Grubido on his hit television show No Passport Required. The exposure that Grubido and The Art of fuFu received was outstanding and the cookbook finally had a release date. But once again we were forced to halt production. The COVID-19 pandemic hit the restaurant and food industry very hard and it seemed like I would never be able to recover. Thankfully the quarantine lifted and I was able to raise $25,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to fund the book.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I think that Houston has a huge international community that many don’t get to experience. If I had to create the perfect week I would take someone to visit the hidden food markets of Houston. We would start at Mahatma Gandhi District throughout the streets of Harwin and we would enjoy Indian tea and Middle Eastern breakfast pastries. I would then take them to lunch in China Town at the Viet Hoa Marketplace for duck and rice noodles. Followed By a mid-afternoon snack at the Reggae Hut for jerk chicken and plantains. Then we would close out the evening with dinner at the authentic West African Safari Restaurant to dine on appetizers of Ugba with Stockfish, Yam Porridge, and Star Beer.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
During my senior year of college, I decided to open a small West African American restaurant named Pepper Soup Cafe. I was able to successfully run the business for a year but it put a strain on my education, which led me to close the restaurant and finish school. During this time I was very overwhelmed and my mom really helped to guide my path and develop the concept of Grubido, which is the foundation that my current businesses are based on. The word Grubido is Nigerian slang (pigeon English) which means “You love to eat,” growing up I was always exposed to International food through my mom’s restaurant so our relationship is based on food and our love for food which made the term Grubido the perfect word for my company.
All Photos Courtesy of Grubido Incorporated.