Who knew a little burger pop-up with the spirit of Ghana could blow up to become the hottest food joint in the 6ix? Chieff Bosompra had an inkling—the man is a serial entrepreneur, having founded and served at the helm of Undisposable, a brand consultancy crafting experiential marketing experiences with the likes of Boiler Room, Soundcloud, Redbull, Warner Music, and more. Chieff knows a successful idea when he sees one: he was able to draw on his family’s strong ties to Ghana and a network of impressive culinary partnerships and co-conspirators to shape a dining experience so irrefutably resonant with fellow Torontonians that the till at Aunty Lucy’s closes each day with each fry and every burger sold out. (In the middle of a pandemic, mind you!)
“Food is this great way you can spend time with your friends and people who care about you while learning about the world,” Chieff told Complex. “I was inspired by guys like Anthony Bourdain and seeing his travels and where food took him. That's how I got into enjoying food and telling stories through food and realized that, as an entrepreneur, I wanted to try a food venture.”
What started as a pop-up restaurant has quickly surged past what Chieff originally dreamed: a downtown Toronto mainstay with folks lined up around the block and delivery orders so backed up the staff over at Lucy’s stays bustling to meet it. Still, their good fortune is not lost on the team, least of all Chieff.
“Being on the cover of the Toronto Star business section was amazing, because that was when my family and friends started seeing all the effort we put in come to fruition. The feedback from press, the love from our community in general—it’s all been really amazing. It’s also been real great to have the opportunity to staff six people every day, and to give people good paying work during a time when there aren’t many jobs. That’s a great, great feeling.”
Though they had to leave their original location due to a rent controversy, Aunty Lucy’s is ready to take their business to the next level at a new spot this Wednesday. We caught up with Chieff to talk about all the dope folks that have come together to make Aunty Lucy’s a reality, how he brings Ghanaian culture to burgers, and what has him stoked on a new spot.
Congrats on the new spot! Tell us where you’re looking to set up shop.
We're moving to a place called the Annex Hotel in lower Brunswick Ave. The team there are really, really great people: we've actually done events with them in the past with Undisposable. When they saw we were looking for a place, they reached out immediately. We spoke to their team and realized that like it'd be a very cohesive partnership.
What brought you to offering a Ghanaian take on a burger?
I was born in Ghana: I lived there for probably the first seven or eight years of my life. My family still goes back very often. I wanted to pay homage to the country that I'm from. When I was thinking about names for the burger shop, I wanted to name it after my grandma because she was actually getting very sick—she was actually quite ill at the time of our opening. I wanted to name it after her to commemorate her. After that, I started thinking of more ways to incorporate Ghanaian culture. I considered smash beef burgers and how that is a very North American thing. People love it, and I wanted to tap into that to offer something like our Kumasi Burger, which is named after a city in Ghana. Or our Accra Burger, named for the capital of Ghana. It was cool to just find different ways to like shed light on Ghanian culture.
Are there other ways you share Ghanaian culture at Aunty Lucy’s?
Through music! We have different DJs every Monday putting out a Spotify playlist that range across a few genres: Ghanaian highlife, Afrobeats, hip-hop. Just a great mix of stuff to really educate people about what's happening in Ghana and all the positive things that are out there.
Are there Ghanaian flavours or seasoning techniques in the burger?
Historically, no. There’s just been Ghanaian inspiration through naming items on the menu, and weaving the culture through the base of the company. But starting at Annex, we’re going to offer jollof rice as a side. Jollof rice will be our first foray into Ghanian cuisine; I'm really excited for that, and I think our customers will be too.
Any changes in the menu?
We're gonna keep our menu pretty intact. We brought the Nima Sandwich back for a limited time, plus our new jollof rice side. We want to keep adding and subtracting various Ghanaian cuisines that are easy and palatable to folks who may be more used to typical Western cuisine. We also are offering beer on the patio now, so that’s another new and exciting thing we can offer our community. Adrian Forte still is still our overarching consulting chef.
What has it been like working with Adrian?
It’s amazing! I already knew him prior to collaborating: we had a lot of mutual friends. So we already knew each other. It’s been great to finally work together and become friends.
Talk to us about the Aunty Lucy’s community.
Lucy's ties into community during these times for a lot of people. There’s a lot happening in the world right now. People come by knowing that, in passing, they might see someone else that they know or could cross paths with a friend. We still respect social distancing and I think people still enjoy, the quick, you know, casual conversations you can still have in a safe distance when they stop by for their food.
We're very grateful to all the people that really rallied behind us and supported us and stood up for us. Big shoutout to Ryan from the Annex Hotel and Ruru Baked Ice Cream. Really, we're just grateful to Toronto.
Tell us about the original GOAT: Aunty Lucy!
She lived in Ghana her whole life was a really great woman that always believed in my ideas, and always supported me and was also so cheerful. She was a big family person. I basically learned from her to pursue what you want to do. Even when her health was failing, she always asked for me on the phone and was always checking in on me. She actually was buried the day we opened the first Aunty Lucy’s pop-up.
I wanted to find a way to commemorate her forever. I think she would have been really happy with the fact that there's a whole restaurant in North America named after her with people buying Ghanaian-inspired food.