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Olushola Medupin: A Lifetime as a Restauranteur
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The mention of food excites him. The smell of cuisines intoxicates him, and being in the kitchen performing culinary art brings fulfilment. His tentacles as a restauranteur spread across the three continents. He has dined and fed the high and mighty. Meet Olushola Medupin, the brains behind Enish Restaurant, an upscale Nigerian restaurant with branches in the United Kingdom, Houston, and the only authentic Nigerian bar in Dubai with the sumptuous traditional signature of African cocktails. An indigene of Kogi with degrees in economics and investment banking, Funke Olaode, finds out why Medupin, son of a retired judge, jettisons white-collar job for a career in the kitchen

He doesn’t look like someone who is feeling the heat due to a career path. He exudes confidence. Cosmopolitan and debonair, the gold chain around his neck illuminates his chocolate skin. As a renowned chef and restauranteur, he has created a world for the low, high, and mighty to enjoy. A remarkable thing about this Kogi State-born is his ability to turn a childhood passion into a multimillion-naira business that spreads across the three continents of the world. Meet Olushola Medupin. Medupin is the co-founder and managing partner of Enish Restaurant. He holds a first degree in Economics and a master’s in Investment Banking and Securities. He also doubles as an African restaurant consultant and combines his qualifications, skills, and acquired experience to lead the restaurant’s operations, staff recruitment, menu definition, and training initiatives for Enish Restaurants and Bar. Together with his wife, Eniola Medupin, a co-founder, they have combined their expertise to wow their numerous clientele through their culinary skills. The restaurant’s name is the confluence of Eniola and Shola to form ‘Enish.’

Medupin is passionate about what he does. He grew up in the restaurant and never thought of making a career out of it. He has become one of the most talked-about restauranteurs.

“My entire life has revolved around the kitchen. Since I was born, after school, there is nobody at home, you only go to the restaurant. So that is where you eat your lunch, and that is where you stay every day. So that is all you see, no friends, only a restaurant. You see people pounding every day, and for you to pound, that means you are an adult. My younger sister was eager to start pounding, and in my mind, I was like, you cannot pound before me. So there is a bit of competition. So, the older ones were pounding already. So at some point, to be honest, it was a punishment because we didn’t have a life. All we do is school, restaurants and home except on Sundays. And even on Sundays, you go to church as early as 7 a.m. and come back at 4 p.m,” the restauranteur admits.

Consciously or unconsciously, Medupin’s career life manifested right from childhood, but he didn’t pay much attention.

He explains, “I know so much about food and at some point, when I got to UK people were encouraging me to open a restaurant, but I simply said God forbid. It was like a punishment. You know what? In my first three years in the UK, I was trapped in the kitchen. Anytime I apply for any job, I don’t get it. But if I apply for a position as a kitchen porter, kitchen assistant, trust me, I will get it. I was like, this is a curse, and at some point, I was I like I am not going to do this. I just stopped. But when I was looking for business and nothing was coming apart from that restaurant. So I said, let me give it a try. Trust me, let me say, like 11 years ago, I would never think that I would create a restaurant. I never liked it. Because I was the one who actually shut down the restaurant I was running in 2000 in Nigeria due to bad roads. So I felt there was no point. I am not going into the restaurant business. Today, here I am. I think it’s just God’s plan.”

He was born in Kwara into the family of Justice Michael Medupin and Ebunola Christiana Medupin.

He shares his childhood: “It is quite interesting, my dad was the first permanent secretary for the Ministry of Justice in Kwara. He was in Lagos before he moved out. He was a retired judge. He was in the Federal Ministry of Justice in Lagos before they created Kwara, so when they created Kwara, he went to Ilorin. He was in government; life was good. We were like the middle class. My mum had a restaurant. My grandparents on both sides had a restaurant. So she took over from her mom. She even used most of her equipment. So she started before I was born. So, all our lives have been in a restaurant.”

Having struggled with his inner instinct, Medupin convinced and listened to himself. It all unfolded in 2012.

“I saw that the environment was actually conducive. All I did was just went online and looked up how to open a restaurant in London. It was extremely difficult initially because I did a lot of research to learn the rudiment of how to operate a restaurant. And as soon as I got the trick, I swung into action,” he reveals.

He had one thing in mind: the Nigerian concept.

He says, “We are a Nigerian concept that delivers 100 per cent authentic Nigerian-African-inspired dishes. Our vision is to bring our authentic quality food merged with modern African fusion of fine dining to the world and become a household name in our industry.”

With this in mind, he started his first restaurant with an inscription—the Nigerian Restaurant in Lewisham, London, UK 2013. In 2016, he moved to Finchley Road London, UK, Croydon Surrey, UK, 2019, Brixton London, UK, 2019 he registered his presence again in Ilford Essex in 2020 and in Camberwell London, UK, 2021. Having satisfied UK appetites, in 2019, he moved to the United States and co-founded Kapriultra Lounge in Houston, Texas.

In February 2020, Enish Restaurant stormed Dubai in style with the mission to be the best authentic Nigerian restaurant in the Middle East with the best African food, quality and music served in the state-of-the-art restaurants that promote modern Africa. Located in the heart of Dubai and along the famous street in UAE, Shek Zayed Road, Enish restaurant offers a perfect venue for both business and social meetings with various night themes for each day, for example, Ladies night, Flux Saturdays, Afro Drip, African night, Afro Beat night, etc. With a 200 sitting capacity, a VIP Shisha serving lounge, and VVIP 10 sitter guest room on the mezzanine floor overlooking the DJ and the big musical video screen, Enish Restaurant and Lounge brings years of culinary craft to Dubai. It serves the true taste of Nigerian cuisine and beverages with a fine dining experience in Dubai, delivering authenticity to its customers’ plate. It is classy with modern design, dark marble, rich materials, sophisticated colours, and subtle lighting. Enish Dubai exudes class and luxury whether guests have come for a cocktail, dining or party experience. Its management is planning another world-class at The Pointe Palm Jumeirah Dubai, UAE, very soon with its success story.

Medupin adds, “Opening our Dubai first branch amidst the global pandemic and managing to sustain it despite the COVID 19 business interruption is quite a milestone achievement. Above all, we have made our presence in the industry to claim the top spot as the best African outfit on UAE ahead of our predecessors.”

Since it registered its presence on the three continents, the world-class restaurant has played host to top politicians, celebrities, and artistes such as Burna Boy, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, Kiss Daniel, Yemi Alade, Adekunle Gold, Simi, Peruzi, DJ Cuppy, Anthony Joshua, just to mention a few. His restaurant is also recognised with various awards. For instance, in 2017, it won the African Pride Award, Best Authentic Craft Bar in Dubai, and Most Outstanding Restaurant In Dubai.

Apart from his culinary art that has constantly drawn people to his tent, another magic that has worked for Medupin is the signage added to his restaurant.

He points out, “Because on my signage I added Nigerian restaurant and people were like, you are limiting your market. Why would you put Nigeria, and why can’t it be Africa? I said I don’t sell Moroccan food. I don’t sell Egyptian food. I only sell Nigerian food. I told a man, ‘look opposite me, that is Jamaican restaurant, and they have their flag there. Italian will put an Italian flag. Why can’t I put Nigeria?’ So let people know where they are going, and I stuck with that Nigerian name. Because even online, when you Google Nigeria, my name will pop up. So later, I found out that it actually helped.”

From London, Medupin expanded to Houston and now Dubai. How did he manage to do that? And what has been his staying power?

He states, “Our staying power is consistency and the ability of my team to keep improving to be the best. My nature is that I like challenges. I like creating problems and solving them. As soon as I finish solving it, I am bored. I am in Nigeria because there is nothing to do. So the first one is Lewisham, after that Lewisham, I started getting bored. I opened a second one hoping that, that one will keep me busy. I have six restaurants in the UK. So when I opened the second one in Finchley Road, I just put two of my staff, and they didn’t even need me there. So I said, okay, let me look for another one, so I did another one in Croydon and put two staff there. The Houston restaurant started with my brother-in-law. He wanted to start a restaurant.

He didn’t have any experience. He involved me, and we started. Along the line, we didn’t get the licence for the restaurant per se, but we got the club and the lounge. So we started the club and the lounge. For the Dubai restaurant, I just went to an exhibition. I go to exhibitions all over the world. Normally, when I go to an exhibition, it takes me one week to tour every site, but it took me only 30 minutes when I got to Dubai.

He adds, “I said I am in Dubai already. Let me enjoy myself because I have already booked five days hotel. So I started going around, and I saw one Africa restaurant in Dubai. I entered, and I liked the atmosphere, and it was quite big, and I said if this man can do it, I should be able to do something better because I know what I can do. And I just spoke to one or two people, and two months later, I opened in Dubai.”

If you want to learn how to run a successful restaurant, Medupin has become an open book for the upcoming ones. Surprisingly, apart from what he picked from his mother’s restaurant as a child, he did go for further training.

“No. It is just a passion. It is just what I grew up with. It is just like when your mum is a nurse, and you grew up seeing her do that, and before you know it, you will know more about medicines. So I had a passion for it, so I started growing it myself. Before I started restaurant, I was cooking for friends. They come to me. So it is just a passion, even I do all the cooking in the house. I think my wife like that part,” he explains.

And his father’s reaction to his career path?

“He retired as a judge. He didn’t have a problem with it. He just assumed I took after my mum. And my mum does a lot of business as well, so he was just like you have taken her steps,” he answers.

For him, his relaxation still revolves around his passion, saying, “I relax in the kitchen. For example, if you take me to a shopping mall, I won’t enjoy it. But take me to like plate shop or cookery store, where they sell restaurant equipment, trust me, I will love it.”

For Medupin, it has been 20 years doing his things and nine years capturing the world with his flavour. He is not slowing down any time soon as many more years will see him expanding.

He admits, “I love Africa, but I don’t think Africa is ready for me yet except Nigeria. So I am looking at coming to Nigeria because I see huge potential. I want to open the biggest restaurant in Lagos. I don’t have space. I don’t know how it is going to happen, but I will keep working on it, and God will help me.”

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