Tina Shaire’s Zolene Diary: From Lawyer to Restauranteur

It wasn’t enough. I was a qualified commercial lawyer with nearly a decade of experience in my profession, yet I felt a gnawing inside me. I felt like I still had more to do, more to give and more to express.

I’d always had a passion for food; although as my brothers will happily tell you, I found this passion much later because as a young girl I preferred to play, than to cook.

We all love to eat, or rather eating is a necessity, but cooking is art. I came fully in contact with the art of cooking in my teenage years, initially it was chore, but gradually it blossomed into a passion. It definitely hasn’t been easy distilling my passion and convincing myself that this was the right path to go. Here are a few things that helped me during the transition period.

Valuing and appreciating my skills
A friend once told me that giving two people the same ingredients for a meal didn’t guarantee similar output. I guess it was her way of giving me subtle hints about how much she enjoyed my cooking. But sometimes this passion thing has to hit you in the head, before you notice it.

Tina Shaire

First it started with me enjoying catering for small events. I remember once I catered for a group in my church and one of the ladies couldn’t stop commenting on how much she loved my food. She went as far as advising me to consider going into food business properly. At first I didn’t take her seriously, until one day it hit me. It wasn’t just about catering for me. I enjoyed the art of taking an everyday recipe and creating my own signature styled dish. Our mother’s mothers came up with these recipes we enjoy so much, many decades ago. I believe it’s important to switch things up and add some modern vibes and flavours to it. Then came the struggle.

What if I…?
So at this point of my life, I had established my love for food and the culinary arts in general. My struggle was dropping my first love (the Law) to pursue my passion or better still handle both concurrently. The mere thought of having to move from one field to an entirely different field took a lot of soul searching and brainstorming.
How would I explain this to my dad who paid school fees in England? How was I going to explain to him that I was considering diverting from our shared dreams of me becoming a renowned judge of the law courts? The ‘what ifs’ were another struggle. What if things do not pan out the way I intend them to? What if this is just a phase that will pass? What if the timing is wrong? The confusion was real! But finally from doubt started to emerge the possibility of positive outcomes- what if I also surpass my expectations in all of this? Then I keyed into that and remained positive going forward. My decision then became to create the future I wish for, vowing to go through the process and hard work with my end goal always before my eyes.

Letting go of comfort for Zolene
Leaving my comfort zone and becoming vulnerable was also another place of struggle. Then came the birth of my 2 daughters. At this point of my life, I was willing to risk it all to become more- to be that perfect example for my girls. I felt the need to demand more of my life and let go of my excuses. For children, most times their parents are the first role models. I decided I wanted to be the best role model for my daughters. This is what birth the idea of Zolene. Zolene is actually a combination of both my daughters’ names.

These days I spend my time birthing my dream-jolene, a 40 seater African fine dining restaurant with a 15 seater lounge. It is a place I find a way to put my own stamp on our every day, well loved recipes.

Source: BellaNaija

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