Tell us a bit about your culinary journey
My culinary journey started in 2009. While I was completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, I tried to make extra money on the side. I decided to use a skill I was good at to bring in some income and with that, Afrolems was born. It started out purely a catering business and I used my blog to market my business to the Nigerian students in Toronto. I began to share a few recipes on the blog and that took on a life of its own. Fast forward to a few years later, I have worked on numerous projects and expanded my knowledge of food beyond catering. Whilst I am not yet a chef, I believe when the time is right, I will explore another depth of food that will require those skills.
Atim Ukoh – Founder of Afrolems
What does African food mean to you?
African food is a rich, vast, and flavourful template that the world can be inspired by. I admit I do not even know the breadth of Nigerian food wholly not to talk of African food. However, I am learning daily and from what I have learned so far is African food has depth. There are a lot of cultural nuances that go hand in hand with our food and so it is difficult to truly master food without understanding culture.
How will you describe your cooking style?
My cooking style is primarily experimental. I like to take a scientific approach to food. I have to first research, understand, pose a few theories, test them, and document my results. I like to believe I am fearless in my approach.
What goes into your thought process as you create a new dish?
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of research goes in. The direction of my research is also fuelled by my experiences. When I lived outside Nigeria, I constantly engaged with people of other cultures and asked a lot of questions about their food. This helps me find the similarities between Nigerian food and other cuisines of the world. That way, by the time I am thinking about a dish, it may be quick research or its years of thinking about it.
Oat Moimoi – Afrolems
What is your favorite African cuisine to cook and why?
Nigerian Cuisine is still my favorite primarily because it is what I grew up cooking. I am tempted to say West African cuisine is my learning, possibly because of the similarities in cooking methods and flavor profiles.
What is that one ingredient you can’t cook without?
If I had to choose a critical ingredient, It will have to be salt but garlic is a close second.
What are some of the major challenges you have faced in your career and what are the strategies you put in place to mitigate them?
One of my biggest challenges is where the business should be based. With digital business, your clients are everywhere and some markets are more profitable than others. It is difficult to decide where you should be stationed. I have collaborated with some businesses in the diaspora on projects so that way, it makes it easier for me to have a presence wherever I am in the world.
Goat meat potato sauce – Afrolems
Looking at your blog and Instagram page, we can see that you have done a great job at making African food look appealing and attractive. How do you think we can continue to give African food a competitive edge globally?
I think African food is already beautiful on its own. We just need to improve access. I think a lot of food bloggers have done a great job of creating content to showcase our food but we need to take it a step further. We need to tell stories about the culture attached to our food. We need to increase access points to our food. There are not nearly enough Nigerian restaurants globally that are presenting our food and culture properly and that needs to change.
Coconut puff puff – Afrolems
What do you love most about what you do?
I love it when I get feedback about my recipes and how people have started businesses with them. I share my knowledge about food because I cannot possibly make a business out of every single recipe I create but someone can and that’s good enough for me.
How can more African chefs, and food bloggers collaborate to put African food on the map?
This collaboration has started happening already but it needs to be deepened with the agricultural industry. We need to be aware of the products we have, use it frequently, and work to increase access on a global scale
Discover unique African recipes on her blog – Afrolems Nigerian Food Blog