During his 17-year tenure in the military, Ricky Joseph Tukufu was extremely active in the food service industry.
To his credit, he had become a household name of sorts, in the field by which he has an undeniably strong passion.
A few years removed from having been medically retired from the military, Tukufu, unlike never before, is basking in the glory and splendor and the purpose for which God created him.
A longtime Executive Chef and Food/Beverage Director, Tukufu’s professional cooking repertoire has, by all accounts, has greatly given way to his immense gifts making room for him.
“The competitive drive in sports propelled me to my business venture because you always have to have something to fall back on especially due to career or season ending injuries,” Tukufu, a former multi-sports prep athlete, said during a recent interview with longtime journalist Andre Johnson. “Plus, I like the look on people’s faces when he or she tries a dish of mine. My food speaks for itself.”
Indeed it does, a trend Tukufu’s clients have enjoyed ever since he first connected with his lifelong dream and divine purpose, ever since he realized that maybe, just maybe, a career as a professional chef could benefit him mightily.
“What I like most about my business is that I am 100 percent in charge and the flexibility that I allow myself to have being in charge and the fact that I am slowly, but for surely getting my name out there for more clientele,” Tukufu explained. “There is no age discrimination. I cater to all ages.”
By and large, this rising chef — who has gone to great lengths in recent years to erect what is starting to become a commendable, progressive business venture — has been quite efficient in his element in that he routinely puts his skills on display for weddings, birthday parties, baby showers, holidays, warm-weather barbecues and, of course, for the love birds, romantic meals for couples on Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and, well, just because.
“I am also a personal chef for those who need me at any time of day and or night,” Tukufu said. “My personal mission for doing this work is to provide, cook, and serve the best quality and best tasting healthy food possible for everyone.”
Having first started catering in Killeen, Texas, Tukufu’s rise to emerging as a crafty chef did not come easily. Then again, anything worth having isn’t a simple, fly-by-night journey.
A former prep basketball standout — he was First Team ALL-Conference, the team’s MVP, and earned honorable mention in the state of Ohio after shooting an impressive 60 percent from 3-point range as a senior — who bolted Memphis and relocated back during his senior year to Cleveland, Ohio, where he graduated from Beachwood High School, Tukufu chose to join the United States Marine Corps, although he was offered a number of scholarships to play college ball.
Consequently, he moved back to Memphis after a six-year tenure in the military, then enrolled at Southwest Tennessee Community College before ultimately deciding to rejoin the military, this time in the U. S. Army.
Still, in spite of what was a constant trend of uncertainty surrounding his career endeavors, Tukufu sensed all along that his Creator has instilled him a vision to cook, cook, cook…and to keep cooking and don’t stop.
Today, unlike never before, Tukufu has proven, among other things, that through his dazzling, mesmerizing professional cooking, he is undoubtedly walking in divine purpose and destiny, something by which a number of high-profile professional athletes are starting to witness and embrace.
Ask Indiana Pacers star shooting guard Monta Ellis, with whom Tukufu had befriended and established close ties some years ago.
“When went to visit with my parents, brother, Monta Ellis, and family in November in Indianapolis, (Monta’s wife) Juanika requested that I prepare some shrimp scampi and some of my famous skillet fresh spinach, with mushrooms and onions and she and their kids, Myla and M. J. fell in love with the food, and so did his father and stepmother as well,” Tukufu said. “I am hoping that I will still be hired as his chef when he comes home to Memphis during the offseason.”
In the meantime, while he waits with great anticipation his monumental break in this ever-so-popular industry, Tukufu realizes, more than anything
That it is imperative that he esteems and inspires others daily because, as he tells it, “Not only do I cook great food but I am also a nutritionist that knows how and what to make food in order to (help people) lose and gain weight. I currently cook on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a couple of students and a couple of parents, giving them great quality food weekly, and I was recently on WREG Live at 9 doing the cooking segment preparing pan-seared tilapia topped with a mango salsa served with sauteed spinach with mushrooms and onions. My food speaks for itself.”
All of which sums up why he’s been extremely active in this ever-so-popular food service industry.
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Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.