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Chef Vee is at your service

Chef Vee is Vanessa Cole. She is an entrepreneur and foodie turned professional chef. From a young age, she has been fascinated with the field of creativity and business, evolving from the world of arts to fashion and now food. Vee spent most of her years preparing to work in the fashion industry graduating from Istituto Marangoni with a first class honours in Fashion Business Management. She has worked in the fashion industry for 7 years before pivoting into the culinary industry. When she isn’t in the kitchen, Vee works as a freelance project coordinator in the fashion industry, managing the operations of productions such as Naomi Campbell’s Fashion for Relief charity initiatives.

Vee is fascinated with combining flavours to create explosive dishes. Her first memories are being in the kitchen with her mother learning both Calabar and international favourites. The most exciting part would be the taste test; seeing the flavours get more and more vibrant and complex, and evoking these feelings of nostalgia through her dishes is now her primary goal.

Vee was raised with food being the language of celebration and experience. Whether it was to award achievements, or entertain guests, her family would use food as the melting pot to express success and love to others. Through this, Vee has translated this into her food. She is driven by creating experiences for those she cooks for, whether known or unknown to her, and making them feel celebrated. She fell in love with comfort food, the idea of creating love on a plate and watching those that eat her food express such warmth and gratitude from what they ate.

Besides cooking, Chef Vee loves to travel and dine out in restaurants. She has always been fascinated by international culture, their local cuisine and traditions. These influences shine through her food strongly, with the use of foreign spices and flavours in her own cooking.

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Vee was born in the United States and raised between Lagos and London. She moved to the UK from a young age and has always travelled to be with her widely spread-out family. This has become a cerebral part of her identity as food in her home was usually a variety of different cuisines. Vee would never spend a whole year in one place. This has given her a very adventurous spirit. She would always work with what she has around her to achieve the flavours and feelings she wants her food to give.

She was trained at the prestigious Chef Academy London. She then completed further training at 2 Michelin star restaurant, Bibendum, in South Kensington London. This training has given her apt knowledge in fine dining execution and advanced culinary techniques.

Chef Vee’s niche is Euro-Asian cuisine elevated using elements of West Africa and the African Diaspora. She cooks comfort food that is refined yet still evokes that nostalgic feeling of satisfaction from a meal.

How were you raised?

I was raised in the UK and would come to Nigeria for the holidays. My parents are huge travellers and we would always go to a new country every year. This built in me the explorer I am today. My parents always taught me to be experimental, to never say ‘NO’ to trying new things, and I take this mentality with me in my adult life. In my culinary career I am a risk taker; I merge flavours from different countries and regions. I proudly use food to narrate my touristic life.

My parents are both highly entrepreneurial and academic, yet they are huge art collectors. I see this in myself, as I now have my own company, yet I am driven by the creative field as well. I grew up not limiting myself and my capabilities. My parents taught me that my life is my own signature. I can take all the things I love and find a way to do them without forfeiting a thing, and I am proud to be walking in that purpose.

Where did the love for cooking emanate from? When did you become a professional chef?

I decided to become a professional chef in the last quarter of 2020. The pandemic pushed me to take this leap of faith and go into culinary school. Cooking has always been natural to me.

I grew up surrounded by food and family. My fondest memories are always of my mum cooking her famous coconut rice for us. She always involved me in the kitchen and taught me the importance of tasting food as you go to figure out what spices can be added to perfect a dish. I didn’t learn based on written down recipes but on muscle and taste memory. That has impacted my way of cooking. I cook based on feeling and emotion. Before going professional, I loved cooking for friends, hosting dinner parties. I also have a successful food blog where I post home recipes and restaurant reviews

What has been your experience working in the fashion industry?

Fashion has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. And whilst growing up, there was a point I thought fashion would be my life. I started working in the industry from as early as 14 years old and I grew up learning from our national industry icons such as Lanre Da Silva to international icons such as Naomi Campbell. I currently work freelance for Naomi, managing her event operations and guest relations.

The fashion industry is a great avenue for business focused and creative people like myself. It is chaotic, colourful and lively and I met so many amazing people in the industry.

How are you driven by the passion for dining and travels?

My passion for dining comes from my family. If we are not cooking we are dining out in the best restaurants. I became a foodie because of this. My family are particularly in love with Asian food as well as Soul Food. These cuisines are where I draw the biggest inspiration from today. I am so fortunate to be able to travel and experience different cuisines everywhere I go. The combination of flavours and spices honestly gets me so excited, seeing how chefs and restaurants infuse their creativity with the local ingredients.

What are your memories of the Mastercard Chef experience?

I heard about Masterchef’s The Kitchen NG Competition via a consultant who sent me the flyer. I did my research and knew the opportunity was perfect for me. My experience was great! I pushed myself to create a team, design a space and execute a three-day pop up. I grew so much from the competition and I am so proud of myself for how well I did. The show will air in the next month or two, and I cannot wait for you all to see how we did.

Tell us about your experience at Chef Academy London

I discovered Chef Academy online. I was looking for a school that executed intense short term advanced culinary programmes and CAL was the best for me. With a 6 month programme tied with work experience and a Michelin Star restaurant, I was excited to grow my talents. I learnt so much from the course on how to elevate my skills with industry secrets. It was the best decision I made. I met amazing chefs on the programme too. The key things I learnt were plating techniques, advanced culinary techniques and use of advanced equipment.

Share on your experience training at 2 Michelin star restaurant Bibendum

I worked at 2 Michelin star Bibendum for 6 months. I began at the bottom and worked my way to the top, working in all the cooking stations. A Michelin restaurant is like going to army camp. There is order and hierarchy. The experience was intense, with unsociable hours. But the amount I learnt was mind-blowing. I was trusted to cook alongside some of London’s greatest chefs and this was a humbling experience. The level of creativity and skill that I absorbed allows me to be truly grateful for the experience.

Take us through your Istituto Marangoni experience and lessons learnt

Istituto Marangoni was a perfect university for me. I graduated with a first class honours in Fashion Business. I loved the school and from the beginning, we were introduced to industry professionals from the likes of Vogue, Net a Porter, Deloitte and McKinsey through workshops, internships and seminars. I was taught how to be entrepreneurial in any industry I find myself in, and all that I learnt has been adapted into my work in both the fashion and culinary field.

Any plans for your clients at Christmas?

Christmas is a very busy month for me as you can imagine. Although I have structured my calendar to take time out to be with family, I am booked and busy throughout. I have just launched a new festive menu and I cannot wait for my clients to get to try some seasonal favourites with a twist. I will also be doing a Pop Up Dinner on the 22nd and 23rd December at Miele Ng. If you are interested in attending do get in contact! It will be amazing.

Final words

To see how the last year has gone, I am grateful to God and God alone as I am nothing without Him. I have learnt to fully submit to His way, and I sit at the back seat as He directs my path. I am so favoured by the blessings and proud to see the level of growth I have achieved this year. I thank all my friends and family that have been with me supporting and cheering me on. My aim is to make everyone I meet proud of me, and I will continue to do that with all my heart.

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