Today, I’m so thrilled to share with you a one-on-one interview with Zambia’s beloved Lulu Wood. A food blogger, media consultant, TV personality, and UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador—Lulu is a woman of many hats with a truly magnetic personality (and a heart of pure gold). As the founder of the food blog Wood Kitchen, you can find her cooking up an array of flavors alongside her husband, Willian—oftentimes serving up fresh takes on traditional Zambian dishes, or chasing after her true culinary love: Asian cuisine. Outside of her experience as a seasoned media mogul and burgeoning food blogger, Lulu is also the founder of We Keep Moving Zambia (#WeKeepMovingzm), an initiative centered on inspiring youth to build meaningful lives and careers.
I had such a great time learning even more than I already knew about my dear friend and fellow Zambian entrepreneur through this interview—and I hope it serves to spark some inspiration for you as well. Pull up a chair, check out what Lulu is cooking, and dig in…
Q: Tell us about yourself.
A: I am an entrepreneur, mum and wife who’s passionate about family, love and being a changemaker on the continent.
Q: What sets your soul on fire?
A: Seeing the people I love happy
Q: When did you first start cooking?
A: I always loved cooking as a child. My mum didn’t really fancy my cooking because I was always trying out recipes with a lot of spices and I think it’s because I was exposed to a very multicultural group of people. And so, I loved the spicier foods like Asian food, Ethiopian food and Nigerian food and always wanted to try to cook that food.
However, I think I only seriously started cooking for myself when I started living on my own. I always loved having my family over to visit but then I got too busy to cook. Then finally, when I got married, I married a man that loved, loved, loved to cook! While we were dating, we would cook together and I enjoyed it and was inspired and wanted to try more. So, I think 2018 was when I started trying harder to learn and to be better at cooking and even tried my hand at baking for the first time.
Q: How did you and William meet?
A: We met on a blind date set up by my family and his family. His aunt met my cousin and my mum and just thought I would be a good fit for him and encouraged us to try it out and go on a date and so yeah, that’s how we first met.
Q: What are some of your favourite recipes to prepare together?
A: We truly love Asian food, and we also like to try out desserts too because we are both just learning. William loves pastries, and I prefer cakes, muffins, and cookies.
Q: Who or what inspires you to cook and create?
A: I think we’ve always really been inspired by our children. They inspire us to cook more. Also, we were in a place in our lives where we couldn’t go out a lot; we were trying to save money, and that just pushed us to go beyond what we would normally cook and try out what we enjoyed eating when we were in restaurants, at home. So yeah, our children are the main source of inspiration for our cooking as well our tastes and adventurous selves.
Q: Besides cooking, what are you passionate about?
A: Well, I’ve always been passionate about the media and passionate about creating content that makes someone smile, that makes someone’s life better. It’s been who I am since I first got into the creative space when I was four years old singing. It was always about…you know singing a song that’s going to make someone feel good or feel better. Without a doubt, media is a very big big passion of mine
I am also very passionate about adolescent girls; our future generations. What can I do for them now to make their lives better? What changes can be made with the use of my influence to make their lives better? It’s something I’m truly passionate about as well.
Q: Do you like to travel and, if so, where to?
A: I absolutely love to travel! I am obsessed with travelling and I thank God that my work in the past 8 to 10 years has taken me away to travel; to explore. I’ve travelled to all 10 provinces in my country, which I’m very proud of. I’ve travelled to a number of African countries, Europe, USA and I have been to China. I really want to explore more of Asia; I’m quite zealous about that. I also would love to explore the Caribbean Islands, mainly because I’ve got a great friend from Trinidad and she’s opened my eyes to that part of the world.
Q: What are a few things that your audience doesn’t know about you?
A: I think people don’t know my passion for music. I LOVE to sing. It’s my release, my way of ministry. Some might know already but I think a lot of people that have followed me in recent years don’t know that about me.
Q: What would you tell 10- or 15-year-old, Lulu, to never worry about?
A: I would tell 10- to 15-year-old me not to care so much about what people think about me or to sweat where my current financial situation is in life or my current class. I think it mattered to me at that time. And I think sometimes it pushed me into myself and made me timid about going for what I was passionate about.
I guess that’s the one thing I would tell myself.
Q: Has quarantine changed the way you approach life and your career?
A: Oh COVID-19 changed a lot; it changed the dynamics in my family. I think I care more about my family; they matter more now. I understand that you can easily lose someone that you love.
I also care for my sanity. I am more intentional about taking care of myself and doing things that I love. Can you imagine that I’ve worked so hard and I didn’t even have a skincare routine; I never even took care of my nails! In 2021 I took control of that and said, “You need to do things for yourself and more of what you’re passionate about.”
Q: What are some burning questions you are receiving from your audience?
A: I think a lot of people are very, very curious about William’s and my relationship. The more we’ve put it out there in public through the content that we create, the more we have received questions about how we can be as close as we are and work together and have so much fun together.
But also, one of the biggest questions comes from women saying, “How do you balance? How are you able to balance everything that you do?” I think these questions come from where I am and how I’ve grown with my audience. So, it speaks to the type of people that I influence and the type of people who ask me questions are normally women who are at an age where they are thinking about relationships or are family women or a single mother and are asking those questions about, you know, ‘How did you manage? How did you manage single parenthood? How are you managing to parent, or how are you managing marriage and work?’ It speaks to who my audience is.
Q: Do you ever see yourself pivoting from cooking and pursuing something else?
A: Based on my life story, chances are there. However, I feel like there’s always a common thread with what I’ve done even though they can be entirely different…I’ve done fashion and eCommerce, I have co founded a marketing agency…but if you notice all of them have certain similar elements: I was creating content; I was marketing something; I was selling something. So, if I ever change the trajectory of my life, I still feel it would have some sense of that common thread. It would still be something I’m truly passionate about because I think I’ve been blessed enough to only work in spaces I’m truly passionate about.
Q: As a food blogger, how do you come up with new recipes?
A: As a food blogger, I wouldn’t say that I’m one to come up with recipes. It’s more like I learn about new recipes and then I…you know, sort of make it my own in a way. I try to adapt it to what I can find in terms of ingredients in Zambia. Though, I have found that when I create new recipes, for the few that maybe I can say I’ve been able to create, they’ve mostly been inspired by a local food in Zambia; something that is local that I feel needs to be changed somehow. So, that’s what has inspired me. I haven’t been in the food blogging space for long but, so far, it has come from being passionate about Zambian food and wanting to see if we can twist it and do it a different way.
Q: What is one thing you would change about the world?
A: The inequality of Africans… That’s a big one…but yeah…I just feel there are so many unequal opportunities, and I mean just look at what’s happening with Covid and the vaccines and how we are not accessing vaccines as fast as we’re supposed to. A clear example of inequality came with how Southern Africa was just cut off from the world because we discovered something. I can’t expand on it deeply but I just wish that such things would change. Also, not far removed and more importantly, how women are treated, especially in our African context. I know it’s a global issue that women are looked down upon, we don’t get equal pay, but I just wish things were slightly different for women, especially in a space like my own where I understand the issue. It would help our lives as women in Zambia change for the better if we were treated with a bit more respect and love and our cultures allowed for that.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about cooking?
A: I think trying to get it right all the time. I don’t think you’ll get it right all the time and more so, I don’t think people will always love what you cook or love the way you cook it. Food is very…subjective. One person will like it today and the other person won’t like it. Uhm not everyone will like certain flavours. Getting it right all the time is not something that you can do. Not everyone will like the way you cook or your style of cooking, so that can be challenging. And as a food blogger trying to create content that your audience will love and understand is not easy but we keep moving.
Q: What does it feel like when you get negative feedback from your audience and how do you go about dealing with it?
A: I am an emotional person. Consequently, it does hurt when I get negative feedback. My personal brand has been attacked countless times and normally it’s related to something that’s happening with me personally, ‘You’ve gained weight.’ ‘Your skin is too dark.’ or ‘She doesn’t look clean because you know she needs to have a better skin tone’ or ‘She’s ugly, how did she marry such a handsome man?’ There are so many negative comments that I get that do hurt but I’m glad that, when I’m not strong enough to handle it, my support system can lift me. I do have thick skin but there are moments of weakness and I’m grateful for my support system.
Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring blogger or entrepreneur?
A: Be passionate about what you do! If you do not have the passion and love for what you’re doing uhm… Sometimes you hate what you have to do to get the money but you love the money so much that you’ll be passionate about doing what you have to do because it brings you the money that you’re passionate about…lol. I think passion is a very big thing in the entrepreneurial space.
I would also say finding your niche. What is it that sets you apart? What is it that keeps you at the top of people’s minds? Figure out what is that one thing that indeed sets you apart and keep on doing it, keep on getting better, keep refining it. If somebody else comes into the game, keep trying to find new ways to reinvent yourself. I think it’s very important to stay on your toes as an entrepreneur. This pandemic really sort of showed who can survive and who can’t in terms of entrepreneurship because you had to think on your feet. Some went down but I would say a lot were able to re-strategise and find their way. In the times we’re in, I would say do something and be passionate about it, but make sure it has relevance to the time and space you are in.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?
A: I’m just super grateful for my journey, so far. I am super grateful for the Zambian public that has elevated me to where I am today. I always say without them I wouldn’t be where I am. So, I’m always cognizant of the fact that I wouldn’t have come this far without the genuine support of my fellow Zambians and incredible women because I’ve worked with a lot of women on my journey. I continue to do so intentionally. I’m just very grateful for women that supported and continue to support women.
Q: What is one type of cuisine that you would like to master in the future?
A: Asian! I want to understand what sauces they put in there. I love Asian food and if I could master that and find a way to infuse it more into our local foods…I would be very, very happy!
Q: Where can people find your recipes or get to know more about you?
A: To get to know more about me, you can follow me on Facebook @Lulu Wood and on Instagram (same name).
My business accounts are @woodkitchenz on Instagram and Tik Tok, The Wood kitchen on YouTube and our Facebook group fans of Lulu Haangala and the Wood Kitchen and our website: www.woodkitchenz.com.
Take a look a my other community blogs here xx