Born in the United States and raised between Lagos and London, Vanessa Cole (best known as Chef Vee)’s formative years saw her develop an inclination for food, travel, and lifestyle. As a renowned entrepreneur and chef, she drew inspiration from a young age with ideas of combining flavors to create explosive and exciting dishes. This has become a cerebral part of her identity as food in her home was a display of different cuisines. Chef Vee was nurtured with food being the language of celebration and experience. Whether it was to celebrate achievements or entertain guests, her family would use food as the melting pot to express success and love to others. Driven by the satisfaction from curating experiences, she’d later translate this into building the brand Cole Cooks and nurturing a thriving culinary career.
Chef Vee trained at the prestigious Chef Academy London and 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. She cooks comfort food that is refined yet still evokes that nostalgic feeling of satisfaction from a meal. Her passion and dedication to the craft earned her a finalist spot at the Mastercard Cooking Competition, The Kitchen Nigeria in 2021.
Read our Q&A with Her, and be Inspired.
What are three words that best describe you? Committed, Adventurous, Luxurious
What is your star sign? I am a Libra! We are creative and emotionally intelligent humans who love people!
What experience triggered your decision to become a private chef? COVID! It took me being locked up at home to slow down and have that ah-ha moment. I have always been around food, it is my escape but I never thought to take it on professionally till Covid happened. I am very tunnel vision and once I am committed to something I take it 100%. I had committed myself to fashion and never really thought of another career, but food is my first love and I couldn’t keep it in the shadows any longer. It is my love language and I would do anything to see people’s days be made better through eating the food I create.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experience so far as a Private Chef and how you have been able to impact lives/businesses through your job? The experience for me has been especially spiritual over anything else. I believe cooking is a mission God gave me. There is something about food that goes into the soul, I mean that is why there is a thing called Soul Food. Food brings people, culture, and history together. People from totally different backgrounds can connect through food alone. So I feel that as a private chef, the impact to provide such opportunities for people is exceptional. Especially as I aim to create conversations through the type of dishes I create, exploring Nigerian ingredients in new ways.
If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice would you offer a younger Chef Vee? Always remember why you are doing what you do. Do not be led by the pressures of this world, but take every single move, every single lesson, and every single job with the conviction that you are spreading love through food.
What / Who inspires you and why? Firstly God. He gave me my vision and my creativity is honestly spiritual. I get a lot of my recipes and ideas in my dreams and when I take time to be by myself. After that my family. I thank God for them every day. Everything I create comes down to moments with them.
What are the top 3 impactful things you have done/achieved in the past year? Being a part of The MasterCard Kitchen Nigeria Competition
Cole Cooks Ladies Brunch – Bringing women from all walks of life together in one space and one table
Expanding my business. In difficult economic times, this is a testimony.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you so far? Do not overplan. Firstly, no matter how much control you think you have over what happens in your life, you don/t. You have to move where God moves. Because of this, I made a career change in my 20s. It is never too late! Learning this has taught me not to stress too much. Your time will always come as long as you do what you do well and with passion and confidence.
When you are not working as a private chef, what are you doing? I am a freelancer. I believe in having more than one hat! I work in luxury events and I have been coordinating events for Naomi Campbell for 8 years now. I lead project operations and VIP Management for her corporate events.
What is your take on “women supporting women”? It shouldn’t be a take. It should just be done. Women have been trying to find their place for such a long time, and sometimes with all the pressure, we see women going against each other and butting heads. We need to understand that if we are not for each other, who will be? We are definitely stronger together.
What is one bad habit you are committed to changing? I don’t necessarily have any bad habits to be very honest. But one thing I can say about myself is my emotions are a part of me and sometimes I get very emotionally invested in certain things. It is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness
What would you like to be remembered for? For making a difference. For setting a standard and being known for maintaining and exceeding standards.
What is your definition of greatness? When you are someone who creates impact and changes lives for the good. If what I am doing is not benefiting people and making lives better then I haven’t achieved greatness.