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Restaurants like S.F.’s only Nigerian spot suffer setback after major fire


If Simileoluwa Adebajo had not slept in a few extra minutes on Tuesday morning, she said she would have been in the kitchen of her new San Francisco commissary kitchen space the moment it was engulfed in flames.

The blaze, which broke out around 6:30 a.m near Central Freeway according to officials, and quickly sprinted through multiple buildings in the city, also damaged the new work space on 14th Street for Adebajo’s Eko Kitchen, which is San Francisco’s only Nigerian restaurant.

“I was already running late for my (food) pickup, and I get there and my building is burning to the ground, literally,” said Adebajo, who also posted an image of the burning building on Twitter.

Adebajo said she will continue to operate out of her original location at Joint Venture Kitchen, which is also a commissary kitchen space at 11th and Howard streets. But she’s going to have to nix plans she had to eventually move her entire operation to the 14th Street location.

The building was also being used by several other food businesses, including an Indonesian venture called ChiliCali, which posted about the blaze on Instagram, and a catering outfit called Crêpe-Madame, Adebajo said.

San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Lt. Jonathan Baxter told The Chronicle that the fire likely affected six commercial structures within the area of South Van Ness, Folsom, Erie and 14th streets, as of 11 a.m. on Tuesday. A firefighter was injured in the blaze.

Adebajo shot to fame in 2019 when she announced on Twitter that she was quitting her job as a financial analyst to open a Nigerian restaurant in San Francisco. Since her debut, and before the pandemic, her business was building a cult following behind homespun Nigerian comfort foods like pepper soups made with goat meat or catfish.

Once the pandemic hit, Adebajo focused her operation more on takeout orders. She also partnered with SF New Deal, a nonprofit that works with restaurants to feed the city’s most vulnerable populations. As such, Adebajo said the 14th Street space was where she was cooking hundreds of meals per week for both the nonprofit and her restaurant. She described the fire as a substantial setback for her business.

“A lot of our pots and pans and appliances, and a lot of the items I have to import from Nigeria like palm oil and yams, were all there,” Adebajo said. “I’m going to have to buy it all back. Maybe I can start a GoFundMe or something, but this is definitely going to have to make me restructure things to move forward.”

Justin Phillips is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jphillips@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @JustMrPhillips





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