Khamisi McKenzie and Daniel Opoku-Baah stood queued up to go into class on the first day of Year 7, not knowing that years down the line they would be inseparable, and launch a food business together.
The two young lads, now 32-year-old, from South London looked at each other on that day in the year 2000, and thought “he seems alright” – that was the start of their friendship.
Speaking to MyLondon, Khamisi discussed his and Daniel’s journey from teenagers to business partners.
READ MORE: Mums juggling the school run to cooking for thousands on Brick Lane
He referred to Daniel as someone “more like a brother” and explained how one story of their childhood came to mind when he thinks about their friendship.
“One time we were going to see Spiderman, remember the old buses you could hop on and off? I remember running for the bus, Dan was faster so he made it, got on the bus, and the bus drove off,” Khamisi said.
“I was just standing there, and in the middle of the road Daniel just jumped off the bus and started rolling down the street – it’s funny because he could have just waited to get off next stop!
“But that’s Daniel – he can make great decisions but then sometimes he just jumps off a bus.”
The duo, who have launched a Jamaican and Ghanaian recipe inspired business called Drums and Flats, always knew they would start something together, however, they never imagined it would be in the food industry.
Khamisi joked: “We wouldn’t call ourselves cooks in secondary school, Daniel was the one you wouldn’t really trust to make food.”
On how the idea came about, Khamisi said: “Daniel and I decided to start Drums and Flats after a random conversation at his house, it initially started with idea of pop-up stores.
“After spending probably the best part of a year practising recipes, we had our first pop-up.
“Throughout the year my mum and Dan’s mum would tell us if a recipe needed to be thrown in the bin.”
The two young Black men take pride in their heritage, speaking about how race played a part in shaping their journey, Khamisi said: “There’s not a lot of young black men or women that are visible seen in the food space, or a prominent figure – so we are extremely authentic in ourselves.
“In the beginning we though we had to dress in a certain way, we were very young at the time and thought this is what a generic business person looks like.
“But we only know how to be ourselves.”
This is why the duo have chosen a menu inspired by their own heritage.
Although Jamaican and Ghanaian cultures differ in some ways, in many ways they quite similar.
Khamisi, who is of Jamaican heritage said: “Ghanaians will say Jamaicans have stolen our sauce and Jamaicans will say vice versa.
“One key difference is also the way we pronounce Plantain.”
Both have maintained ties to their culture, with Daniel often going back to Ghana to reconnect with his family and grandparents.
Khamisi recalls the last time he went to Jamaica with his dad he was able to visit a massive Pimento tree, a key ingredient used in Jamaican food like Jerk chicken.
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“We see food as one of those things that help understand a bit more about who you are,” Khamisi said.
Khamisi and Daniel were recently chosen by BT and Google to front its new ‘Get mentored, Get growing’ campaign.
They were chosen by thousands of applicants to take part and received 1-2-1 mentoring with Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Levi Roots.
The initiative aims to address the digital skills gaps and help boost the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery as well as offering free 1-2-1 mentoring sessions for UK small businesses like Drums and Flats to cover a range of topics including digital marketing, e-commerce and business strategy.
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