Spotlight: SuyaSpot

The first Spotlight on Life Without Spanxs had to be different and dear readers, I’ve delivered. Switching over from fashion to food *mini squeal for my fellow foodies* and shining an inaugural light on the men this time, SuyaSpot is definitely a brand to be reckoned with. Headed up by brothers Tomi & Tobi Akinbolagun and Folaju ‘FJ’ Oyegbesan, the suya-centric pop-up is the perfect balance of great vibes and moreish bites, bringing the kind of spice needed to London’s cultural melting pot.

Now about to see their 4th event come to life, I can personally say how much I have enjoyed watching the brand grow and meeting the eclectic mix these gentlemen bring together. Below, we discuss all things SuyaSpot; from the vibrancy of African heritage being at the heart of the brand to building on past experiences and personal strengths to take their events to the next level. Read on and, if you’re lucky, you may just learn a li’l something about bringing the heat to your love life.. #ChickenWingsShowCharacter

SuyaSpot: the brand

From bar talk to building blocks.. 

Tomi: Well, the concept for SuyaSpot was born in a bar one Friday night in 2016. The three of us met up for drinks after work as we tend to do with a number of other friends too. Amongst many other topics of discussion, we started to talk about food and the lack of African cuisine on the London culinary scene. A few ideas were bouncing around on the kind of ventures that could potentially work and fit in to where there was existing demand. Suya was one we all had passionate ideas on, after a few back and forths we arrived at the SuyaSpot concept and name. I was particularly keen to ensure that this wasn't another idea that fell by the wayside and started investigating venues and an executable project plan. Now here we are 3 events later and still growing.

Dealing with challenges head on 

Tomi: The whole planning process has actually been pretty seamless and anything that may have initially appeared as a challenge we've attacked head on. Naturally, there were lessons to be learnt
from our first event, which have been applied to each following event and we've seen that learning process pay off.

Support Squad goals 

All: We have learnt from the lessons of the first event and are not afraid to ask for a hand or two. The guys you see in the SuyaSpot badges are the SuyaSpot squad, they’re our close network of friends who are all highly skilled professionals in media, marketing, writing and cooking yet they lend us their hands, helping out in areas often outside their comfort zone to make this dream a reality, without the squad these events would be a myth. Our families have also been incredible providing us with their time, resources and much needed words of encouragement, will never forget how proud they were after that first event. And of course the fans, we love the positive vibes everyone comes with to each event. Seeing their big smiles and hearing those hearty laughs at each event, motivates us to keep on going.

SuyaSpot: the experience 

Tomi: Food is at the centre of what we do, so this always will be the area we ensure is of the highest standard and it’s imperative that our attendees have an incredible tasting experience. Based on the feedback we've received so far, this appears to hold true. Beyond the menu, is the energy and ambience at our events. There's a soul and vibrancy to Africa and Africans when it comes to gathering. Whether that is for a meal at the dinner table or for the celebration of a life event, the vibe and soul of Africa is always tangible and this is something we're keen to capture and infuse all our events with. Each Suya Spot is such a great time and you'll enjoy more than just the food. The music and the variety in our attendees is also a unique element to each of our pop ups.

FJ: We want to recreate the experience of having a good home cooked meal with your family but away from your family and everyone that comes should feel right at home.

On balancing work and SuyaSpot event planning

Tobi: We all work to our strengths and sharing responsibilities really helps lessen the load. My primary focus is on maintaining our identity in the food we serve which is a lot more involved than it sounds. Suya is and always will be central to what we do so my most important role is ensuring the quality of the Suya is consistently high. Each item that makes the menu needs to be thoroughly tested and refined; this can often take a month or so in and around our busy schedules. There are a couple pages of ideas, but we are currently planning the special features for our summer events, it’s going to be sensational!
I am fortunate to have some flexibility around working hours, I will typically work from home the Friday before each event which helps if there are deliveries to be taken or orders to be finalised. However the bulk of the shopping and prep is done on the Saturday as we want our food to be as fresh as can be. Every SuyaSpot event has involved pulling at least one all nighter in the run up to the big day but as we learn the tricks of the trade we are becoming more efficient with prep, maybe we’ll even manage to get some sleep before the next event!

FJ: I am lucky enough to work for myself, so I am able to allocate as much time is needed to SuyaSpot. Also having three people dedicated to the vision helps, like Tobi said we share responsibilities and pick up the extra workload if one of us is busy or not readily available.

SuyaSpot: The men behind the machine

Date night x SuyaSpot – let’s bring the fire! 

Tobi: Haha, I love this question. As you know we don't really do the whole three course thing, it's a bit too formal but if it was a really really special date with an immensely special lady then here's how it would go.

Starter - BBQ corn x Suya Butter, let's start the meal with something simple, sweet and fun. This is one of my favourite sides. The soft juicy corn is contrasted in parts by coal caramelised kernels, not only is it ridiculously tasty but there's also some symbolism here; the butter is going to melt all over the cob as she will in my arms by the end of the night.

Main - Beef Suya, our take on a timeless classic. The heat of the Suya is unencumbered. Ginger and chilli are two of my favourite spices, not only do they make the base of yaji (Suya spice) but they are also well known aphrodisiacs. That ought to heat things up and help this date along! Our cooling salad will help control the rising fires, after all we want this date to last all night.

Dessert - Plantain Pie. This game changing pie is making a debut at February's pop-up and is me on a plate. We’ll start from the bottom up, there’s the traditional well grounded short crust base topped with a soft, smooth, familiar but unique plantain filling finished by the hardened gold caramel crumb. All together this is a well-balanced and truly outstanding specimen.

FJ: Mmm... A SuyaSpot date night event this could be a new thing but back to your question.

Starter - I would say the Gizodo probably it’s the only thing we have on the menu that is kind of like a starter and it’s probably the easiest thing to eat on the menu at the start of the date. Imagine eating the BBQ corn x Suya Butter like you are playing the harmonica at the start of the date, it would be a madness.

Main – I would say a combination of the Beef Suya and Suya Wings in a sharing platter, it would be nice to see dynamic over sharing food – who goes for the last piece? Do they offer first or just grab the last wing? Also how you eat a chicken wing is crucial to character judgement, you have to see if they clean the bones, leave some bits on the bone or they chew the bone (stay away from that person!).

Dessert – The most important course on the date, in my opinion, when I pick a restaurant for dinner I always check the dessert first. If they have a good selection then I go. So for this SuyaSpot date it would be the new Plantain Pie, I tried the finalised recipe over the weekend and it was banging. It would be great to share with someone you like, personally I would get two cause Joey doesn’t share food.

Individual personalities can create a synergy 

All: It's amazing how our respective strengths compliment to make this work. Tobi is the creative one in the kitchen so everything to do with the menu from prep to presentation he's got that covered. FJ is our resident creative; his eye for aesthetics ensures our brand is consistent throughout all our platforms. He works passionately to communicate our story through his photography and design background. Tomi is the man with the plan; he gets stuff done and works on SuyaSpot to keep us all focused and moving in the right direction. We're all perfectionists in our respective areas, but it's awesome to have someone from another perspective help critique your thoughts and ideas.

Next stage for SuyaSpot.. 

All: With only 3 events under the belt so far, we re still newbies on the food scene, but with every event we improve and refine our offering. This year we aim to continue putting on #SuyaSundays at least once a month keeping the same consistent standard of sumptuous spicy BBQ'd food, in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

 SuyaSpot in 3 words? 

Tobi: Family, Food, Fire | FJ: Passion, Legacy, Love
Tomi: Family, Heritage, Soul

Looking forward to Sunday like the electric slide at a wedding! You can buy tickets (£3) for the next pop up this Sunday here

Follow SuyaSpot on Twitter (@suyaspotuk), Facebook (SuyaSpotUK) & Instagram (@suyaspotuk).

Photography by Folaju Oyegbesan