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Interview with Funké Egberongbe – For the 3 Kitchens Project


Food is an important aspect of culture and identity. It can be a powerful starting point for migrant women to share their cultural heritage and build connections with their local communities. The 3 KITCHENS project is an adult education initiative to empower migrant women in three key areas: volunteering, employment, and entrepreneurship. It offers a nurturing space where they can connect with their culinary heritage, acquire new skills, and gain confidence.

Val met with Funké Egberongbe recently, Funké came to Ireland from Nigeria, and she now runs a restaurant in Sligo town. Read the interview below, or you can listen on our podcast.

Can you tell me a bit about the background, why you started cooking?  I am originally from Nigeria, and I’m in Ireland for over 19 years now. I came into Ireland as an asylum seeker and landed in one of the refugee accommodations where I actually started cooking because I didn’t like what we were being offered at the time, so that was how I started cooking. It was something that led to the restaurant we have today.

Did you know anything about Ireland before you arrived? Not really. We just had a friend that told us that Ireland could be the place to come to. And was it a scary time? It was, it was scary, it was a big change in the sense that the environment was new for me, the system was new, the people, the language, the accents, so the culture, the weather, everything was different. So, it was something I really had to learn over time. And it was scary because I was all by myself.

So, you left your family at home? My family were back home in Nigeria when I came over by myself and I was pregnant at the time. I was on my own for seven years, in the refugee camp.

I was transferred from Dublin to Kildare, from Kildare to Sligo, from Sligo back to Mayo, and then back to Sligo.  It’s very hard to settle when you’re being moved from place to place, with the kids changing school and all. My eldest child was nine, but I had the other boys here in Ireland.

And I think with direct provision you’re not allowed to work, is that true?
No, when we came in we were not allowed to work, you were not allowed to go to school, further than level five course, so that was all we could do, but now the system is more humane that you’re able to get a work permit you’re able to go to as far as level eight degree. You’re able to do that now.

And you went to college yourself, didn’t you? Oh, I did. When I got my residency permit, I had to start my life afresh again, having spent 10 years in that probation. So, starting again meant I had to first go to College of Further Education in Sligo, and then I moved on to St. Angela’s College in Sligo where I did food science. So, my first ever degree.

When you moved to Ireland, did you speak English? Oh, yes, I did, because in my country it was a compulsory subject, you have to pass it. So, I knew English already before coming in.

And then you started cooking from your home?  During lockdown?
During lockdown, that was when it actually kicked off. I was still in college then, but then because of COVID, we couldn’t get out. So, I started cooking and that’s when I set up my Instagram account. I think that was around the time we set up the website as well and I just started cooking and fell in love with cooking.

And the restaurant opened in 2023? Yes, last year, in October. And you serve a wide variety of foods. Yes, from Africa and the Caribbean. Usually, our type of food would be spicy, but I remember when we opened and there was a lot of spice in our food and a lot of the Irish people didn’t like that, so we currently serve a lot of dishes without the spice and if you want the spice, we add it to it.

And you also have a range of sauces. The Jollof rice sauce is for sale in the restaurant and in local supermarkets; Super Valu, as well as in Afro Caribbean stores around town and in Mayo.

Is there any piece of advice you’d give to women thinking of starting a business, what would you suggest to them?
It’s great to have a dream, like every big thing out there you see, no matter how small, no matter how big, starts with a dream. But if you don’t go for that dream, nothing happens, it remains a dream. So, for every woman out there with a dream, go for it.

And do you have any advice for anyone who might be in direct provision and might find it a stressful situation? I suppose one of the big things that I learned while in that system was being open to learn new things. I never knew how to cook from Nigeria. So, it all began in Globe House, really, for me. And then I remember I learned to bake in Source Sligo. I went in there for a cookery course, with my savings.

For everyone in that system, don’t just be sitting back. Get out there, get information from Citizens Information Centre. Look for courses to do, start from somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you are starting from level three, get doing something while you wait for a decision from the Department of Justice.


Thanks so much to Funké for her time. You can find more information about her restaurant here. Discover more about the 3 Kitchens project on the website:

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