Blessing Okumbor is an international chef, specialising in the food of West Africa. She is amazing not just because of her passion for cooking but, also her desire to ensure people around her are not hungry which is where her cheffing business emanated from.
BOP-foods which is her official business page started in the year 2021 but prior to that, Blessing has cooked for different charitable groups and homeless in the community in Plymouth for free since 2014 – even though it had always been a childhood dream to cook and own an eatery.
Despite various challenges she had faced all through till this point, she succeeded in officially starting her food business particularly in Plymouth based on popular demand. From savoury snacks to flavour burst soups and stews, Blessing specialises in whipping up very tasty west African dishes and would be very much delighted in sharing her story thus far, and why Plymouth in particular.
Made in Plymouth Community Reporter, Kosi Ezenyi, met with with Blessing to discuss the journey for her so far and tried to find out what challenges she might have faced (or is still facing), explored solutions to some of these challenges and, and discussed the positive peculiarities of Plymouth that she has taken cognisance of:
How have the West African dishes that you cook been received in Plymouth?
The dishes has been well received and also got good feedback from people. There’s big appetite for multi-cultural food, this is due to the growth in the city/environment.
You do a lot of work cooking for the homeless in Plymouth. Why?
I will not say is a lot of work because giving is part of who I am, and cooking is my passion and it has also helped me build a positive mindset towards society. In my own words; if we put hands together to build a better society with love and heart of giving, this world will be a better place because love overcomes every negative feeling.
How have you found settling into Plymouth?
To me, everything thing seems fine, but however the only challenge sometimes is the cost of living which also includes buying food items… like the groceries from African grocery stores/markets.
What have been your greatest challenges in setting up your business?
At the moment, the greatest challenge is finding a good restaurant in a suitable location to rent and also the price increase in the African raw food supply/ fresh products.
How have you connected your own culture to the culture of Plymouth?
That’s a really good question. I have been able to connect really well into the culture by staying focused, putting positive thoughts into everything that I do and also by bringing different types of local west African dishes to my menu; mostly the ones people thought they would not be able to get access to or taste due to the distance between africa and diaspora.
Has it been easy to build a community and make new connections?
It has been easy for me because I’m part of a church which has a very large population both in Africa and in Europe – in fact, around the world.
How have you done this and what would your advice be to others?
As I earlier mentioned, I always put in positive effort first and I also work with my faith so my advice to others is that they should build a strong foundation with positive energy and let their passion shine through with love.
We think of Plymouth as being a multicultural and diverse city. Is this your experience?
Yes it has been, compared to 10 years ago when I relocated to Plymouth… there’s much difference.
What could Plymouth do better?
Plymouth should open more doors for small businesses and also play positive roles into local businesses, encouraging people to invest in the city.