The DJ turned chef creating innovative Pan-African dishes for musical heavyweights | Tailor Made

Award-winning chef, highly-respected DJ, event promoter and artist manager, Akwasi Brenya-Mensa, shares West African cooking secrets, memories of Manchester clubs, and thoughts on cultural exchange.

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 26 September 2023

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In a new collaboration with mens and formalwear specialist Moss, Finest is getting up close and personal with masters of their craft and cultural innovators who have strong ties to Manchester. Moss has been committed to delivering unparalleled craftsmanship and quality to its customers who want affordable tailoring without compromising on style and fit for 172 years. Hosted by Thirty Pound Gentleman’s Danny TPG, for our first episode of ‘Tailor Made’, we welcome Akwasi Brenya-Mensa

Last summer, this award-winning chef and creative all-rounder set up south London’s Tatale. Running for 12 months at The Africa Centre, it was more than just a critically-acclaimed restaurant. Taking inspiration from the chop bars of West Africa — roadside eateries serving traditional dishes to anyone who’s hungry — Mensa’s idea was to plate up iconic recipes from Ghana and neighbouring nations, encouraging Britain to explore the region’s heritage and culinary customs, and engage in cultural exchange with fellow diners. 

Tatale at The Africa Centre

But breaking through boundaries and crossing borders is something Mensa was already more than familiar with. Describing himself as a ‘humble polymath’, his career to date has straddled the worlds of food, music, artist management, event promotion and performance.

Akwasi Brenya-Mensa
Akwasi Brenya-Mensa

Before all that, he was resident DJ at Revolution on Deansgate Locks, among other spots in Manchester. A role he secured while studying at university in Sheffield, in many ways this represented a form of cultural exchange in itself: relocating from the capital to experience the north as it can and should be.

Eventually finding himself living in Manchester from 2016, half a decade or so later he still considers our home to be ‘the best city in the UK outside London’. 

“The first time I realised I was in the north of England, I was going to a trampoline class with a friend of mine called Carla, missed the bus, and a car pulled up behind and was like ‘Where you going? I’ll drop you off’,” he says.

“She was halfway in the car, I was like: ‘Yo, he could be an axe murderer.’ But that’s why my mum sent me here. When you’re in another setting, in another place, people are different. That kind of warmth and that kind of pride of like, their city, where they’re from, how they do things, it’s something I really love and really resonates with me.”

Shop The Look Akwasi Brenya-Mensa

Skip forward to today and he’s imparting all that knowledge on a close friend of Finest, Danny TPG. Tailor Made’s host, and Culture & Partnerships Director at Thirty Pound Gentleman, he leads the Manchester organisation focused on collaborations in music, art, sport and fashion, encouraging hard-to-reach communities to engage in creativity on multiple levels. Who better, then, to take charge of a video series platforming innovators, entrepreneurs and groundbreakers from various creative fields, allowing them to tell their story while also sharing in their first, lifelong, and current passions? 

For the first instalment of Tailor Made, we’re talking about food as it should be — nourishing, wholesome and without pretence. Much like Akwasi Brenya-Mensa himself.

On the menu, we have black-eyed beans hummus, and ‘chin-chin’ cheesecake, reflections on setting up independent eateries, not to mention welcoming the likes of Chicago rap icon Common, memories of catching drum & bass hero Randall for the first time, and non-linear career paths. It’s all tied together by ‘the creation of space or environment in which people can have an experience’.

Simply put, then, a man in tune with our own hearts.