“ I Quit My Job As A Software Engineer To Become A Chef” Rising Chef Keeks of Blue Cheese Tells His Story.
It’s easy to spot George Odoi popularly known as “ Chef Keeks” at any pop-up event; he sports long braids which are usually tied down with a bandana scarf whilst he confidently stirs sauces in his stand for waiting customers. What makes Chef Keek’s story particularly intriguing is his transition from a software developer to a savvy culinary business owner at ‘Blue Cheese’.
If you are already following him , then you have had a preview or hopefully had a taste of his creations which combine various elements of Ghanaian and global flavours. His pop-ups are also where all the ‘cool Twitter. peeps’ are hanging out at.
I had a chat with Chef Keeks recently to share his rather unique story.
Tell us about Chef Keeks.
I love to educate people about food, It’s imperative for Ghanaians to understand more about food and have an adventurous palate instead of the usual Jollof served in restaurants. I studied Computer Science in KNUST and my second year internship was at DreamOval where I actually was compelled to code due to projects assigned to me. It was fun for me as I could virtually create applications anyhow I wanted. I built a few personal apps whilst in school and I tried to promote a wider usage but it was difficult and expensive due to my limited budget as a student. I shut down my personal projects in app development and focused on working for others. In my final year I got a job to work with Pentium Tech which led to me earning a salary whilst in school. I became a social media manager at my brother’s company and then eventually ended up at DreamOval.
I started cooking for a few friends who lived in East Legon because they constantly didn’t know what to eat due to limited options in the neighborhood. I was constantly watching and listening to food videos just to make my cooking have a different taste from the usual. One day, one of my friends asked me if I would quit my job at DreamOval if they could match my salary there so I cook for them full time. My brother encouraged me after I discussed the proposition with him. So I took them up on their offer and from that time I have just been cooking.
My Dad was disappointed and my mom was irate. She wasn’t on speaking terms with me for a month even though I was cooking a special diet meal for her. Eventually, I moved out and went full steam ahead in preparing varying dishes for my clients. I started a sandwich pop-up stand in East Legon where customers could stand around and eat or grab and go. Twitter friends shared most of my creations which led to an increase in customers. Then one day one of my customers offered me a new space at Aviation Center which is now my current venue for my pop-ups. I have had several very successful pop-ups so far since May of this year. My pop-up also recently rebranded to become Blue Cheese.
2. If you had a $1,000 what cooking equipment would you purchase first?
It definitely would be Knives, a very durable chopping board, a Wok and a wok flame. I can cook anything with a wok and it’s my favorite cookware in my kitchen.
3. Which local or international chef inspires you?
I respect David Chang and the grits he had to leave Thomas Keller to start a noodle bar. I also admire Gordon Ramsay just because of the extreme passion he shows when cooking. He makes cooking fun and adventurous. David Chang is incredible too with a more technical & focused technique when cooking.
4. What do you hope to achieve in the food industry in Ghana ?
I want to be one of the reasons why people were educated about food. When I cook, I find myself in a zone surrounded by all kinds of flavor information and I want to transmit this information to diners. Someone should experience my food and have a story to tell about the authentic flavor combinations. There’s more to Ghanaian food than Jollof :D