While culinary excellence may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Nigeria, yet in recent years, a number of extremely talented, and creative individuals are raising the standard of the Nigerian culinary industry.
Surprisingly, the Nigerian kitchen is at the heart of a new revolution, where food is no longer just about taste, but has become a medium through which the brightest and most innovative can give maximum expression to their creativity.
One such culinary genius, so to speak, is an individual professionally known as “Chef Black”, with whom we recently had the pleasure of sitting down to a frank and revealing interview. Read on.
Who is Chef Black?
I am a continental cuisine chef, a food photographer, food videographer, restaurant consultant, restaurant owner at “Sabor del Amor” and I’m a food stylist. My passion for cooking was generated from the joy that lies in the heart of many as a result of maximum satisfaction and deliciousness derived after eating a dish cooked or orchestrated by myself. Sharing my knowledge, talent and experience has always my legacy, as life must always be about giving. I also take part in other curricular activities as Singing, playing of musical instrument, visual arts such as pencil and charcoal art, landscape painting and sculpting.
There is a common saying that chefs are not high income earners especially in Nigeria, Do you agree with this?
The answer to this question will be relative to the food enterprise. Some food enterprises understand the value and importance of chefs, so they are able to appreciate their chefs accordingly and create a proper welfare platform. Sadly, not all food enterprises appreciate their chef as much. Some either just take for granted or completely do not understand the value and importance of chefs and as a result totally mismanage their chefs and pay them lessthan their value.
On the flip side, some kitchen cooks with little experience and no culinary education claim to be chefs when they aren’t and some food enterprises discover this and take advantage by paying them little.
Do you think chefs deserve more acknowledgements in Nigeria?
Yes of course. A lot of chefs are doing very well in creativity and contributing positively to the economy. A lot more jobs have been created in Nigeria as a result of some freelance chefs we have today. Commercial cooking chefs and pastry chefs have won outstanding culinary awards and competitions across the globe. One proof that Nigerian Chefs need all the accolades they can get is the job well done in presenting our “Nigerian jollof rice” to the world today, other dishes too like “Ayamase” or “Ofada sauce”, Eforiro and many more Nigerian dishes.
Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?
That would be Nancy Silverton. She is the co-owner of Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza in LA, Newport Beach and Singapore, as well as Mozza2Go and Chi Spacca in LA. She also founded the world-renowned La Brea Bakery and Campanile Restaurant, an institution that Angelenos cherished for decades. Nancy has worked with some of the nation’s most notable chefs including in the kitchens of Jonathan Waxman at Michael’s Restaurant and Wolfgang Puck at Spago. Additionally, she has served as a mentor to numerous others who have gone on to become award-winning chefs and restaurant owners themselves.
In 2014, she received the highest honor given by the James Beard Foundation for “Outstanding Chef” as well as listed as one of the Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink by Fortune and Food and Wine Magazine. In early 2015, Nancy launched Nancy’s Fancy, a line of premium gelato and sorbetto which will be sold in supermarkets nationwide. Additionally, she is the author of nine cookbooks including “The Mozza Cookbook”, and the newly released “Mozza at Home.”
What is your favorite cuisine? How many different types of cuisine are you capable of producing?
Italian cuisine has always been my favorite. I have always loved everything that involves the use of pasta. This cuisine lays so much emphasis on authenticity in flavor and deliciousness in a dish.
How many different types of cuisines am I capable of producing? Hahahaha! Pardon me, I am capable of cooking anything in the world literally and I say this with pride.
What has been the most difficult challenge in your career?
I learnt how to make the perfect “Ofada sauce” also known as “Ayamase” from a street Nigerian cook “Mama Put”. To my surprise I learnt a lot more than what would have been hard to teach in most culinary schools in the world today. I have had to hide my name and my achievements temporarily for my desperation of more and full detailed acquisition of more culinary skills and knowledge from so many chefs. Acquiring the level and amount of culinary knowledge and experience I have right now had a ridiculous price I had to pay at the beginning stage of my career after culinary school. I have had to buy and wear the apron of humility while interning and learning from chefs in various forms cuisines in different food enterprises over the years.
At what point did you decide to start a career in hospitality and why?
I was serving in Lagos during my NYSC year, where I grabbed the opportunity to acquire the culinary skills I have always dreamed of having. My passion for cooking was generated from the joy that lies in the heart of many as a result of maximum satisfaction and deliciousness derived after eating a dish cooked or orchestrated by myself. My only brother was my first trigger in discovering my love for cooking and the joy it gave me watching everyone around me stay fulfilled with bliss.