Within the Lagos social circle, everyone knows Boladel. He is a leading male caterer and he is very, very popular. That is why he has been the choice of the high and mighty and the very rich in society. His real name is Lukman Bolade Adeleye. So good is Boladel that all his clients simply pick up their phones to book him for their events. He does the best small chops in Lagos and he also serves proper food. Everybody agrees that Boladel is good at what he does. That is why his services are in hot demand. So good is Boladel that he takes up 3 to 4 jobs on most Fridays and Saturdays without any problem. He is always fully booked, yet he copes very well.
What they like about him are his decent presentation and classy table arrangement. He has the best presentation. He has a store full of personalised plates, cutlery, napkins, cups, glasses, name it with BOLADEL embossed on it. He constantly travels abroad to update his catering utensils. He takes each job he gets as a fresh challenge and gives it a personal touch.
As popular as the brand is, not many know the brain behind the brand. We can tell you. He is a Big Boy named Alhaji Lukman Adeleye. The 54-year-old socialite has been running the brand for over 15 years. And still counting.
A few weeks ago, City People Assistant Society Editor, ABIOLA ORISILE interviewed him on how he started, and how he rules that sector as a male vendor.
Being a man, why did you choose a female-dominated business?
It doesn’t matter if you are a female or male food vendor. You don’t have to be female to go into catering. We have female engineers. There are female mechanics. Don’t say because they are female, they can’t do your car well. So also are male caterers, we are good cooks too. It is all about passion.
How long have you been running Boladel?
I have been running Boladel for over 15 years and still counting.
Its obvious that you are educated, why did you float a catering outfit?
Of course, I am educated but permit me to say that you must be passion driven to make it in any profession. I grew up with all my siblings being male. My mum didn’t spare us even as young boys. We were taught how to do house chores. She put me through all I know about food. I am also the first child, so I have to take care of my siblings. I also didn’t have an interest in football like some of my siblings who always wanted to watch football. That was how the interest in catering started. I love to give people good food.
I love to serve my food differently. Even all my plates are branded for their food. There are even new sets of serving dishes I ordered directly into Nigeria from China. You can’t see any of my serving dish anywhere until 6 months. I am very unique in food and food presentation. I don’t cheat and I make sure my clients get value for their money.
How did you get the name Boladel?
I am Bolade Lukman Adeleye, so it a combination of my names.
Do people mistake you for a female?
Yes. This happens many times. I have been to an event where I introduced myself as Boladel and people will be like “wow”. I am a male food vendor (laughs). This always happens because I am a male bearing female name.
Where are you from?
I am from Ijebu-Ode but my mum is a Lagosian. I am from a ruling house in Ijebu-Ode.
Which school did you attend?
I went to St Peters Primary School, Iboun Epe, I later went to Secondary School at Iboun, where I went to Ogun Polytechnic to read Business Administration. I went to the United States of America, after which I later went to Manchester University, Boston where I did my Masters. I worked abroad for a while before I started Boladel Poly product, where I do Mr. Biggs Lylon Bag, Polythene and so on.
At what point did you change to catering?
I started with all these various polythene bags before I did a catering job for a manager about 15 years ago and people couldn’t help but scream. That was when that sector had no male food vendor. Even in the United States when I was much younger, I cooked for people for free. You don’t even need to pay me. I was enjoying every bit of it. My friends Dehinde Akilotan, Wasiu Ayinde will come around as big brother and I will cook for them.
They always say Lukman open a restaurant in New York and I always turn it down. I didn’t even think of opening a restaurant then in the United States despite the money I had. It was after I came back and saw what they feed Nigerians with that I said, “Oh, I must start a catering outfit”. While coming in now, I saw how some guests were served, I was like, this is bad. I am not even one of those food vendors who put meat parts in the freezer to eat. I always do excess. I always have a reserve till when the party has ended. I am known for this.
How many staff do you have?
I have about 100 staff members. I have my office in Mushin. I have my house in Mushin not Lekki.
Were you cooking when you got married?
No, I was into Nylon Bag. My wife does other things. Even at home, I cook.
Are you and K1 age mates?
No, K1 is my big brother. I am 54 and I am going to be 55 by next year May.
You don’t look 55 years, what is the secret?
It is grace of God and doing things moderately. I don’t womanise.
How long have you been married?
I have been married for 19 years.
Have you been told you act like a female?
Yes, It is nature. It is not intentional but hormonal.
Do you turn amala?
Yes, I made all the food cooked here today. I made everything they ate here. I cook Chinese. I do efo riro. I do moin-moin. So most of my staff can't bluff with me. I have my taste. Boladel is Boladel in taste.
What has sustained you?
Honesty and truthfulness.
Which job brought you to limelight?
It was Eleganza job. That was a big hit for me. It was when one of Okoya’s daughters got married and we blocked everywhere. They were like can you do this and I said yes. It was Alhaja Rasheedat Okoye’s daughter’s wedding. She is my Aunt. I was even the back up at the party. They called a very big brand but all the rich men there turned down the food. They wanted a natural food and that was a hit for me. It is not a self-appraisal, we stand for good food.
I spend money to stock the best. I buy quality food ingredients.
Do you allow your wife to join the cooking?
No, it is strictly Boladel I do a recipe. She has her style of cooking.
How many jobs do you do per day?
I do a lot of jobs per day. I have done over 200 jobs this year.
How many top shot jobs have you done?
I have done a lot of jobs. I have worked with over 16 in Nigeria