Bola Akinbobola

My kitchen journey started primarily with my love of eating. I was a greedy child, ravenous. I once ate a whole jar of what I thought were Smarties (candy) from the medicine cabinet and had to go to the hospital! But that didn’t stop me from experimenting and trying anything and everything. Quickly it became my dream to become a chef, where I could learn and eat many things.

I am from London Town. My first kitchen job was as a weekend helper in a pub, collecting glasses, serving desserts, and getting coin tips from dirty ashtrays. I’ve been in this industry for 20 years strong. Working in a kitchen has fed my curiosity, taught me focus and control, and gives me the drive and inspiration I need daily.

There was a point in my early career when I was working for a brasserie-type restaurant that caused a shift in my life. The food wasn’t that great, and the chef was a classic nutcase, but I learned about kitchen pressure and how to concentrate it and use it to drive me forward. I discovered the want and gratification of perfection in the things I created. It was a time that showed me I could go further if I tried. So I sent a letter to 10 of the top restaurants in my area asking for employment. I got an interview and a trial in a 2 AA Rosette restaurant. The chef knew I was an amateur but gave me a shot. From that point, I’ve never looked back. All my interest and focus was on anything, food and drink.

In the future, I hope kitchens get more modernized and become better environments for staff to operate in. There are plenty of downtrodden basements with no windows and dwellings where people are sweating it out producing top-quality foods. If their environments were improved, imagine what they could do!
Interviewed & Shot by OFFICIAL HOTK REPORTER IN 🇬🇧 @darklingcaptures 📷

Marco Antonio Quelca

When I was ten years old, I worked washing cars in La Paz, Bolivia, where I am from. This job is humble, and because of the social discrimination in my country, we had to cover our faces with a “pasamontañas” (mask) balaclava, like other jobs.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I began working in a kitchen washing dishes. The effort and passion in this trade was infectious. When I was 24 years old, I became Executive Chef of a 5-star hotel in my country. After a few years, I migrated to Spain to work and learn from the gastronomic references I admired and had researched.

In 2014, I returned to my country after a gastronomic nomadism because my roots called me. I started a project that brings contemporary cuisine to peripheral areas of Bolivian cities with the sole intention of inviting different ways of eating local products for free. The Sabor Clandestino project was born there, whose creative axis is the popular daily life of Bolivian culture and ingredients, highlighting different techniques and presenting them in a contemporary way.

This project led us to self-manage it by making menus in unusual spaces, each time exploring the concept of clandestine in our activities, where no one knows what they will eat or where. The diners attend with their minds and stomachs empty. Today Sabor Clandestino is nine years old, and its activities are a mix of theater with gastronomy.

Each menu is exhibited for 4 months and rotates to a completely new one. We wear the pasamontañas (mask) as an icon of our activities, the face of anonymity, demonstrating that many people contribute to this world positively with their work and effort anonymously.



Ever since I was a little girl, I loved being creative. I dabbled in clay modeling and drawing, and I loved food! Looking back through my five years in the pastry business and three in the bakery, I’m happy I found a way to combine both passions into one!

My first job in the industry was in a pastry shop as an assistant. I learned a lot, and it was a phenomenal experience. Even though I knew that specific field wasn’t for me, I did discover my love for Viennoiserie. That was love at first sight. And I got the chance to dive deeper into my new passion during the COVID confinement period.

I’m so passionate about this field, and I love seeing people’s smiles when they try their pastries. It’s one of the things that brings me the most joy.



I was born in São Paulo, Brasil, native of the backlands of Bahia.

I’m a self-taught Chef with over 26 years of experience working in this profession. Aside from my Brazilian culture, I believe my cuisine is heavily influenced by French, Italian, Spanish, and Asian techniques. That is the beauty of this profession, as a single dish can transcend many borders. For me, cooking is an act of love and transformation. Learning from the exchange of experiences and teachings with others is one of my favorite ways to learn and grow.

Over the course of my profession, I’ve learned that everybody, regardless of their background, deserves the same respect. Value your own work and also value the work of others. Always believe in yourself and in the potential of others.


It all began in the dish pit, the humble corner of the kitchen. On one side, the flames danced as the wok sizzled with frenetic energy. On the other side, there he stood, immersed in the task of washing dishes. It was a juxtaposition of two distinct elements, coexisting within a single space. Growing up in a family kitchen, Lúóng couldn’t help but dream of the day when he would transition to the other side.


I’ve been living in Florida for the last four years. I arrived as a Culture Exchange Student from the Philippines and took one year of Culinary Training in Palm Beach, Florida.

My love for the kitchen started in my childhood when I would go to the Local Public Market with my mom. Being exposed to fresh meats, fish, and vegetables then seeing my mother combine all those ingredients and create a great meal inspired me.

My first kitchen job was in an environment I felt I belonged. The training and hours were long, but it was exciting for me to work on what I’m passionate about. One of the things I love about cooking is presenting my culture through food.

As I learn how life works, it gets easier to fall and get back up. We all make mistakes. We all have bad moments, but I keep in mind that no matter what happens, it will all pass. We live, and we learn. Tomorrow is a new day to do better.

There is one thing I would like to change in this profession: the wrong perception of a kitchen where there’s always a screaming and frustrated Chef. I’ve been in both kitchens, and I realized most people are discouraged from being in this industry for that reason when it’s not always the case. A kitchen can be fun and productive, depending on who leads it.

People who work in this industry are some of the humblest people you will meet. Not only do you get pride from creating great food, but you also maintain a humble spirit because you have to clean up after yourself. The little things build a great person, and for me, being in this profession creates a full version of yourself.

Stay humble. Skills can be taught, but a good personality and behavior cannot. The only way to survive in this industry is your humility and empathy for the people and environment you work in. A positive attitude and optimistic personality will get you far if combined with hard work and perseverance.

Paul Félix

My name is Paul Mitchell Félix Valenzuela. I was born in Culiacán, Sinaloa, México.

The only thing that kept me afloat during my first job was the culinary basics I learned in school and the love for food I had carried since I was a child. I entered the kitchen without realizing it. Since my parents worked when I was a child, I found myself responsible for feeding my sister and me, and ever since then, I lost my fear of cooking.

The love began when in the middle of personal problems. I found cooking helped me forget about everything. I learned everything happens, but nothing is forever. I love that there are no borders in the kitchen. Nothing divides us, and the humility of food can touch people’s hearts.

When I entered the industry for the first time, I realized it was a somewhat dark place where people seek their own benefit or cook without the essence needed to cook. I realized that change comes from the people who still retain those values ​​and do not lose them no matter how dark the road may be. I think cooking brings out people’s true faces. Under pressure and exhaustion, you get to know people.

Everything you do, even if you do it a thousand times a day, you have to do it with the same love and dedication that you put into the first one. Try to improve every day. Try to make the same dish better and better, and enjoy what you do. Don’t let anything and no one take away your dream.

Lastly, whatever difficult moment you’re going through, whether you have clients or not, you’re at your best or worse emotionally, overwhelmed with life, or can’t see the light, know you are not alone. Everything will pass.


My name is Sonia Oberai, I was born in Bombay but was raised here in London . My passion for cooking started from a young age , watching my mum cook every day. I was fascinated with all the spices she would use.

I started cooking from the age of 15, my mum taught me all her recipes and that is where the passion for cooking began. I got a lot of joy from seeing people enjoy my food!

I started my culinary journey by working for an airline catering company as a pastry chef. From making hundreds of desserts a day I wanted a change of direction so I started working in the ivy as a commis chef . Working in such a fast paced, very famous restaurant I gained experience and learned a lot of new skills!
I am now chef de Partie.

I would say I am very proud of myself from where I started and where I am now.
I still have a long way to go on my journey and I can’t wait to see what is next!

Photography and story captured by @darklingcaptures official HOTK reporter in 🇬🇧


We’ve been making Bánh cuốn in this corner for over three generations. It started with my Grandfather, who owned the business before passing it to my Mother, and now it’s in my hands.

Last year, Michelin almost gave us a Star, but our place wasn’t big enough and didn’t meet all their standards, so we didn’t get it. We need more room and time. We’ve been here, serving the locals for over 40 years, and we’re not going anywhere soon. If it’s meant to happen, it will, but it’s not something that keeps me up all night.


I was born in Brooklyn, New York, with my family roots stemming from Italy and Argentina.

I’ve been on an amazing culinary journey these last 12 years since 1995 when I began as a dishwasher. It was a tough job, but along the way, I fell in love with cooking and the kitchen by watching the cooks execute each dish. In this journey, I’ve prepared gourmet dishes in some of NYC’s finest restaurants, roasted pigs in backyards and at stadium tailgates for thousands, cooked classic Greek menus and American pub food, and tossed buffalo wings by the boatload. Every step affirmed what I’ve known from the beginning, that it’s the only thing I want to do. Nothing else interests me. Making people happy and being part of their special moments is one of the highlights of this career. It’s like nothing else you do.

But deep down, despite all I’ve done, I always knew I needed to return to my first love, to my roots: Italian food. So, in 2019, with no more than an idea in a notebook, I got to work.

Today, Brooklyn Roots is a living, breathing thing. I am finally home and so proud to cook dishes that are familiar but always a little different than the standard. We are old school in a modern world which is one of the reasons why everyone in my kitchen has two days off and is compensated for all their hard work. A work balance needs to be created in this industry. We lose too many great cooks/chefs to burnout, but if we all stick together, work hard as a team, and care for each other, we will achieve outstanding results.