Simoni Kigweba - Common Table
SHAPING THE FOOD CULTURE OF NASHVILLE
NASHVILLE SINCE 2011
Like many people, Simoni Kigweba came to Nashville for the music industry. He quickly turned to a deeper passion: cooking. Now, the esteemed personal chef is creating delicious custom experiences for an array of clients.
“I was selling merch on the road for a buddy’s band and came off the road here in Nashville and started cooking,” the Memphis native says. “I’d been in love with it since college, and it just took off from there once I landed in Nashville.”
In 2011, when Simoni first arrived, Music City was going through some interesting changes. “It was the beginning of the restaurant culture that we have now,” he says. More and more people were identifying as foodies, sharing meal experiences on social media, and exploring new culinary styles. “It was exciting to just be here and be around people who enjoy dining,” he says. “It was super exciting to be a part of that.”
He jumped right in, beginning to cook at Burger Up. He returned to the gourmet burger joint after a brief stint in Atlanta, then landed at the Josephine, where he worked until the end of 2016.
Next, he forged his own path.
But for the Tennessean, it was the logical next step. He had friends in the private chef industry, and saw both the opportunity and the reward. “It was challenging, awesome, scary, super wild and uncharted but so rewarding to be able to cook and fall in love with my passion again,” he says. He launched in January of 2017. Along with private clients – corporate, personal, holiday parties – , Simoni has been involved with cooking for charities as well. “It was a super awesome experience to be drawn into a deeper sense of why I cook,” he says.
He contrasts the private cooking experience with that of a restaurant, where you’re in the kitchen all night in the rhythm of the dinner rush focused on one piece of the meal experience. “It’s the whole process,” he says of his work now.
Not that that came without challenges. “I would say the one caveat that threw me was the time,” he shares. “I feel like the time in a restaurant is so segmented because people have reservations at 7:15 … there’s a rhythm in a restaurant, it’s an orchestra, theres’ a beginning and an end, whereas private clients, the timing is all about a certain moment. For me at the beginning it was tough because I was like wait, you told me you wanted to eat at 6, I’m ready to go, what’s happening, and to be a bit more flexible in bending towards the client.”
“Now, it’s just a lot more creative, and you get to mold experiences to your clients,” he says. “We’re just worried about each client, how are you going to make this the best unique experience for them. So sending them questions about, what do you like to eat, what was the best experience in food you’ve ever had, how can we take those things in terms of customer service and bring those to them.”
Beyond just the culinary side, Simoni is building his skills on the business end, from scheduling and spreadsheets to organizing business expenses and understanding how to best meet client expectations. “It’s been super educational,” he says. “I feel like it’s kind of an unending education.”
“I feel like one of the not scary parts to doing the business is learning, oh, I have a tremendous connection with my clients,” he says. “I love the experience of seeing my food hit their table and them being kind of just in that moment. That experience has drawn a whole new appreciation for me cooking, and beyond that, it’s given me a lot of joy to continue on.”