Posts tagged interview
Chef SiA is Coming for Lagos

The word “chef” has, for the most part, been abused in Lagos. You see it on instagram all the time. Someone makes a couple plates for friends and in no time, a “chef” is prepended to the name.

That’s not Simi Ajibodu, however.

From culinary school to a Michelin-starred kitchen, Simi, also known Chef SiA, has put in the hours and earned the title. We got a chance to speak to her ahead of her popup in Lagos this weekend.


Tell us a bit about SiA. How did you get into the industry?

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I’ve actually always wanted to be a chef. When I was in boarding school they used to offer “Food Tech” classes, and so when I got to A-Levels, I had a big decision to make. Do I want to do Food Tech or do I want to be a lawyer? Naturally, it became a huge conversation in the family.  I was asked “what are you going to do with Food Tech?”

Umm, become a chef. Obviously. 

And they were like that’s not really a profession. I was like okay, let’s go out to be a lawyer. I actually applied to the University of Kent to do Law and I realised it wasn’t for me halfway through so I ended up switching courses to American Studies just to go to uni. After that, I got into the workforce and hated the whole 9-5. I decided to leave it and go to culinary school. It was huge decision because I was leaving a comfortable job to pursue something I had no clue about. If not for the support of the people around me, I don’t think I’d have made it to the other side. 

I applied to the Le Cordon Bleu (London) and started in January 2014. Before then, I romanticised what it meant to be a chef. Based on reading books, going food festivals, and watching TV shows - everything I thought I knew about being a chef was wrong. No one tells you that you have to be on your feet 12 hours a day or you have to pull long hours. You also have to more or less sacrifice your social life if this is the dream you want to pursue.

Your first job...

The first job I ever got was a week after I graduated from culinary school, I worked at CUT at 45 Park Lane.

As much as they teach you about these things [in culinary school], reality slaps you in the face HARD. I used to wake up at 3am for a 5am shift. I’d do breakfast, do lunch, go home to sleep and be back at it the next day. 

I was like, “wow, this is what people actually go through?”. We sit in restaurants and think, “oh, this food is lovely, this service is great”,  but we don’t know the grind that truly goes on. It gave me more appreciation for things that go on in the kitchen. For example, back in the day, I probably wouldn’t have paid service charge. My service wasn’t great so why should I pay for it? Then I got to understand the difference between service charge, VAT, and taxes. I started asking questions. 

Is this going to the whole kitchen? 

Is it going to my server? 

Who am I tipping exactly? 

If what I’m tipping is going to the whole kitchen, I will always gladly pay for it. Just because you have a bad experience with waiter doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve had a bad experience with the food. I’m not sure you understand what I mean. 

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Makes sense. 

From the Dorchester, I went a little restaurant called The Gallery. If you know where Saatchi Gallery is in Chelsea, then you know where it is. I think that’s where I got a lot of my experience as a young chef. The head chef, Andy, really took me under his wing. Not just the cooking side of things, but also, the front office. He taught me how to make and order supplies, how to understand stock levels, etc. It’s not just making the food and setting the prices, there’s a lot that goes into it. Basically, he taught me how to run a kitchen the right way. I think that’s the biggest lesson I ever learnt.

I thought to myself, “I can actually run a kitchen”.

A few years go by and I started focusing on private dining to understand what the customers want from Fine Dining and their understanding of it. Is it just about going to fancy restaurants or would they like that kind of service at home? While I was dabbling with that, the opportunity at IKOYI came up. 

I actually found the job through instagram. I messaged the guys like “hey, I’m interested in working for you guys” and they told me to come through. We had a chat and he gave me the job on the spot. All of us in the [IKOYI] kitchen are 32 and under, and it drives the point that young chefs can actually do what we’re doing.  We can run a restaurant and run it successfully. Age doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you have the right experience.

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I’ve always been curious, what is it like at IKOYI? Or at any top level restaurant actually. What’s the structure?

Everywhere that I’ve worked, there’s a form of hierarchy. The bigger the restaurant, the more bureaucratic it is in my opinion. While I was at the Dorchester, we had this culture where as soon as you step in the door, you must shake everyone’s hand. It didn’t matter if you like them or not, you must do it. You also say “good morning” or “good afternoon” depending the time you start [your shift]. You do the same thing when you’re leaving. You have to clock in and clock out for your breaks. It doesn’t matter if you are in the shits (when you have so much prep that needs to be done), they don’t care. Everything was really structured and regimented. I didn’t really enjoy it. 

Then, I got to IKOYI and it’s very different. As much as Jeremy is the head chef, we all contribute our ideas. We’re all in it together and there’s more of a camaraderie. We’re the sort of people that straight from work, everyone can go out to grab drinks and have fun regardless of how service went. We all have a sense of loyalty and trust in each other.  You need that sense of “this person has my back”. If I can’t get food out on time, this person is going to help me. For me, that’s one of the reasons I really like where I am right now. 

In terms of structure, everyone has their positions but everyone does everything. Today, I can be on sides. Tomorrow, I can be on the grill. If the person washing the pots and pans doesn’t show up, I can step in to do it. There’s no demeaning job. One job isn’t more important than the other. 

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When Ikoyi got that Michelin star, I was so excited on multiple levels. First, there’s the patriotic pride in the fact it’s partly Nigerian owned and Nigerian inspired.  Second, Ire was like 3 years my [Nosa’s] senior  in secondary school. It’s “famz”, but knowing someone that owns a Michelin starred restaurant is so crazy. I’m so far removed from it and I was so excited so I can only imagine how exciting it was for you to actually work in that kitchen. What’s it like to work in the kitchen following the star? Is there extra pressure?

Funny enough, we were not expecting it. A lot of people expect the star or expect some sort of honourable mention. We were not expecting it at all. When we got the email, Jeremy was like “Simi, can you take a look at this. Is this real or is someone playing a prank?”. 

All of us had a look at it.

Then, we got the follow up email, which did not look like a prank. We were all in shock. All of a sudden, people started congratulating us. We’re still in shock till this day. 

Following that, I’d say the only difference is that we got busier. People that didn’t understand what West African fusion was got to understand it. We had to handle the fact that on a given night where we’d be doing 40 covers, we were now doing 90 covers. We’re still riding off the high of the Michelin star. It’s still busy and people still congratulate us. Last week, someone sent a gift to congratulate us on the star.

There’s also more of an international recognition. We get a lot of foreigners that come through and one of the reasons why they come to London is because they want to visit IKOYI after hearing about it from someone else. I can meet random people and when they ask where I work, I say IKOYI and they know about it. It’s quite cool.

How did you guys celebrate when you got the star? Did you go to a fancy dinner or something?

Oh no, we went to Shake Shack

[laughs]

Literally, that’s what we did. I mean, we’re young. For us, if you want to eat good food, you can eat good food anywhere but most times you go somewhere affordable and cheap where you can just wind down. And not some fancy place that tells you to wear a jacket.

Fair enough. Ok, something a bit more personal. You had your first popup in Lagos in December and you have a couple more lined up for this year. 

Chicken Risotto by Chef SiA

Chicken Risotto by Chef SiA

So, last December was actually not my first popup. My first popup was back in 2015. It was market research for me. I invited about 20 people and served a 7 course menu. I just wanted to get feedback from people. 

"Did you like the food?” “What would you eat differently?” " Would you want a more fine dining service?” “Do you want something more casual?” “Are the portions just enough?”

And I got a lot of good feedback from it. The only thing I wasn’t sure of was: were they giving me good feedback because the food was free? Or did they actually enjoy the food? I had to go back to the drawing board to understand what I would do differently. I also needed to get more experience because I was still a young chef. That’s when the Roundtable series came to life in December. I’d actually gone to do a lot of research on how I’d like to eat at home in Nigeria.


Is there a reason you’re looking at Lagos more? I mean, it’s a good thing but I wanted to understand why.

There’s access to great food everywhere else in the world, but in my opinion, we don’t have modern fine dining in Nigeria. Or even in Lagos, more specifically. I decided that even if people don’t know me, I don’t want to be known as a private dining chef. I want to be known as someone that’s trying to change the culinary game in Lagos. And then Nigeria, then Africa, then the world. 

Rather than starting in London, I wanted to start in Lagos because there’s a lot of great access to produce. For example, our puna yam. When we have them in London, I’m not guaranteed that it’s coming straight from Ogun State.  I want Ogun State puna yam because it has a particular flavour and texture that I’m not going to be able to get in London.

My aim for next few months is to come back home and build awareness about how interesting our food is and how imaginative we can be as well. That’s why I’m doing a restaurant style popup as well as the second edition of the Roundtable series. 

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Are you ever going to move back and set up something here? Is that something that’s in your plans?

It’s actually a goal of mine but I’m very specific about the space that I want in terms of the ambiance and right now property in Lagos is bloody expensive.

[Laughs]


I agree.

A lot of the new spaces are in VI and some of those locations are leaseholds. Some of them are more or less renovated [houses]. They’re are not new buildings and I want to do that.  I want to build something from scratch. I don’t want to lease a property, I want to be able to afford to buy it and build it the way I want to build it. I want to take my time with it because if I rush it and I fail, I will not have the confidence to do it again. I’m going to take my time and hopefully in 2-3 years, I can save, build and introduce myself as Chef SiA. 


Tell us a bit about the menu for the Round Table later this week. I had a look at it yesterday and I noticed a lot of familiar elements, like plantains, but in unfamiliar places like a plantain macaron.  

[Laughs]

The funny thing about the plantain macaron is that a friend of mine said, “Simi, you don’t do too many things with plantain. Plantain is in every other dish in Lagos.”

I thought to myself that we could do a plantain macaron. What’s stopping us from infusing plantain flavour into it. What is gizdodo, for example? Can I infuse gizdodo into a macaron? In one bite, something sweet and something savoury that’ll make people go “Oh my God! I ate gizdodo but it did not look like gizdodo”. I want people to go away thinking it was different and cool. That’s the idea behind the plantain macaron. 

For the rest of the menu, I wanted to do things that featured almost everyday in our [Nigerian] food. For example, chicken. Chicken is in everything we eat but honestly, I am not a fan of chicken. I think it’s a dry bird but I know how to make it juicy if I need to. Another thing we eat often is ram. Nigerians love our public holidays and we’re always celebrating one thing or the other, and if we’re not getting our Sallah meat from one our of Muslim friends, we’ve not really celebrated. So I thought I’d bring an element of that into the menu and introduce something different. 

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My menu is truly inspired by basic Nigerian ingredients that we can get anywhere. It’s meant to be something that looks exciting but something people think they can do at home, but they really can’t. So that they always come back and eat at my establishment

[Laughs]

A lot of it is just me sitting at thinking if I can do things like okra ice cream. Is that something that’s plausible? If I strain the tanginess out of okra, put in some sugar and blitz it, will I be able to get candied okra? Can I use it as a garnish? That’s more or less what happens in my head everyday and I experiment. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, then I go back to the drawing board. 


Is there anything you brought to a menu that didn’t work and you had to toss it aside?

Yes, actually. There’s this particular dish that still bothers me. The egusi dish that I did at my last event had a lot of mixed feelings about it. Like, straight down the middle feelings. It bothered me. Why was it such a subjective dish? Did people think it was too close to hime and I didn’t reinvent it enough? I didn’t toss it aside per se but it bothered me. I need to go back to the drawing board so that it comes across as something that’s different but also familiar. 


Final question: what’s next for Chef SIA?

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My main focus now is taking Nigeria to the world. Even though Africa hasn’t been on the map with regards to the Michelin Guide or World’s Best Foods etc, we have something to offer. We can also produce quality food at a good price. That’s my main goal - to reinvent Nigerian cuisine and make it more accessible to everyone.

Right now, I’m trying to do more events and collaborate with more people. I’m also trying to focus on female chef empowerment. Especially here in London. The female chef is seen as second class to the male chef. All the “celebrity chefs” are male. I know there are a lot of female chefs doing a lot of great things in the background and we don’t always hear too much about them. One of my goals is to try to bring the female chef out into the open. To say that we’re here and we stand for something, and do great food as well.

In terms of my personal brand, I’m just trying to hustle out there. To let people know that I am Chef SiA, also known as Simisola Idowu Ajibodu. I’m a mother, a wife, and also a great ass chef. Come and eat my food. Let me know what you think. I’m here to have conversations about food, wine, Nigerian agriculture and how we can reinvent it. 

Thank you so much.


Chef SiA will be in Lagos this month hosting two popups. Her first, at Black Olive in Ikoyi, will take place on March 15 and 16. While her second, at The Metaphor, will take place on March 23. To make a reservation for either, send an email to info[at]chefsiaa[dot]com.

From Benin to Lagos: Chef Yacynthe's Road to Nok

This weekend, Nok is taking guests on a culinary journey to the Republic of Benin. Sous Chef, Yacynthe Aho, is sharing his favorite childhood dishes.

To get a better understanding of Nok’s head honcho and what to expect this Saturday, we short chat with him at the restaurant. He talks about his journey so far in Lagos and his vision for the future of food


Tell us a bit about your self. What’s your background?

Well, my name is Chef Yacynthe and I’m from Benin Republic. Before I started cooking, I went to school and I have my two certificates. They are French certificates and correspond with the National Diploma in Nigeria. So, it’s a National Diploma in Hotel Management. When I completed that, I came to Nigeria and I’ve been in Nigeria for 15 years now. 

You’ve been here for 15 years?

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“What is me is African food. What can I do to show African food to the whole world?”

Yes, I’ve been working here for 15 years.

What brought you to Nigeria?

I have a passion for cooking and I wanted to discover other countries. I wanted to discover both what they were doing in other countries and discover the spices they use. The first country that came to me in my dream was Nigeria and that’s why I’m here. 

Since you’ve been here, is there any spice in particular that you like?

Yeah, but it’s not only one. There are many spices I like in Nigeria. For example, the four corner spice (Ed note: Also known as Aridan). It has a nice flavor and the scent is perfect. They use it for a lot of dishes, you understand? There is another spice that they call Oso. It’s like beans. There’s a seed inside. Very black. When you use it to cook, it’s very nice. I’ve discovered a lot of spices in Nigeria.

What was your first job in the industry?

You know when you take a risk to leave your country and go to another country to express yourself, it’s not easy. My first job [in Nigeria] was with Protea Hotel and my first post at Protea was chef de partie. After two years, I left them and got another job at the Abibiz Restaurant in the international airport. I worked there as a chef de cuisine. I worked there for two years because if there is something I want, it is to meet people and discover their recipes and ingredients. That’s what inspired me to move from one restaurant to another. After I worked there, I got another offer at Morningside Suites Hotel. I was the Executive Chef there and I worked there for two years. 

It is after that, because I was working very hard, I was looking to work with people with the same vision as me. I was doing the continental dishes then, but one day, I said to myself: “That is not me, what is me is African food. What can I do to show African food to the whole world?”. 

To show people that, in Africa, we have something to offer. Because today, all of us are following other countries’ dishes and flavours but what about our own? That’s how I heard about Nok Restaurant. I came here and I met Chef Pierre. We had a discussion like I’m having a discussion with you and when I told him my vision, he said “Yacynthe, you’re the one to work with me at Nok”. 

That’s how I found myself at Nok today.

So what was like working with Chef Thiam?

Chef Yacynthe in his kitchen

Chef Yacynthe in his kitchen

Well, it was a very great time for me and I’ll say I’m very lucky to work with Chef Pierre because he’s my senior in the industry. He has the experience and he’s doing a lot of things with African food. So it was an opportunity to work with him to improve and today, to God’s glory, I’m doing better.

A lot of people like Nok. I’m sure you know this, but what do you think makes Nok special?

People like Nok because our standards are totally different. Our dishes are different. The spices we use are also different. We study those spices. We test them, test their flavors. We do the recipe tests again and again. When you want to be better, you need to do one thing again, again and again. At the end of the day, you get what you want. That’s what makes us different. And when you look for all these kinds of dishes in Africa today, it’s only at Nok you can get them. 

How do you keep things fresh and creative every time?

As I said before, we work very hard. We don’t sleep. Every second for us is an opportunity for us to have something new to offer to our customers. We do a lot of research. We go to many places: both to the local markets and international markets. We go there to discover all the spices so our customers can have different experiences. Not that you come today and you eat one thing, then you come the next day and eat the same thing. We study a lot and that’s how we come up with different dishes that make our guests happy. 

What do you love the most about being a chef and being in the industry?

For me, the reason I am a chef is that I can make other people happy with my dishes. The chef I am is not about the uniform or the name, but by what I present on the plate to my guests. That’s what makes me a chef. And when the guest eats and is happy, I’m happy too. It’s a passion. I feel like I’m in another world anytime I see myself in front of a guest or I present my food to a guest and he eats it with joy.

Ok, for the opposite. What would you say you hate?

As a human being, you must like something and you must hate something. What I hate most is that when i present a food to a guest and that plate comes back to the kitchen with the food, it makes me angry. It makes me want to discover what made the guest not like the food. 

You’re hosting a Chef’s Table this weekend. Tell us a bit about it. 

This Chef’s Table we’re about to do is something special. Special because when many people hear Benin Republic, they see it as a small country. They don’t know that even if it is small, something good can come from it. One particular thing that makes me happy to present dishes from Benin is that in Benin we have some unique spices. These spices are from the ancient days. Those that our grandparents were using to cook. Today, for spices people prefer to go the supermarket. It makes me to realize that I need to value what I have from my country. 

This is the country that made me who I am today so i want to value my country. All the things my country has, I want to make it available for people to experience. That’s how we came up with the different dishes [for the Chef’s Table]. But it’s not about the dishes alone, it’s about the spices. Without spices, the dish doesn’t have any value. It’s the spice that makes a dish. 

NOK Dakouin

NOK Dakouin

What’s your favorite dish from your country?

[laughs] I didn’t expect that question but I’m very happy for that question because if I call the name of that dish and explain to you, it’s funny but it’s my culture. 

We call it Dakouin. Dakouin is a fisherman’s dish in my place. The fisherman goes to the river and gets all the fish and when he comes back, the first thing he does is to remove the biggest fish and give it to his wife to cook. 

So how do you cook it? It’s a very simple dish. You just do a very light stew, then you remove the fish from the stew and then use the remaining stew to make the garri. You Nigerians call it eba, but we [Beninoise] call it garri dakouin

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Dakouin means “you cook and you turn it” because when you cook it, it doesn’t remain inside the pot. The fisherman has worked very hard so he needs to enjoy what he worked for. This is the first dish we offer every visitor in our village. Any program - birthday, marriage or funeral - if you don’t cook it, your party doesn’t have any meaning.

So it’s like jollof rice?

Yes, it’s like jollof rice in Nigeria.

Will it be on the menu this weekend?

Yes, that’s my signature. It’s going to be celebrated. 

You mentioned earlier that everyone just goes to supermarkets for spices. Do you have any challenges sourcing spices in Lagos?

No. No. One thing I like about Nigeria, it’s unless you don’t know the direction. When you know the direction, you know the particular person that can help you. When you meet those kind of people, you get what you want. It’s a very wide country. [laughs]

[laughs] …a very wide country.

We also source ingredients from all around Africa; even though it’s hard and expensive, it’s very important to us that we research and expose our own flavours

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Thank you so much for sitting with us. We’re looking forward to the Chef’s Table. 

You’re invited! 


Join Chef Yacynthe this Saturday, October 13, 2018 at Nok as he explores the memories of Akodéha in a very personal Chef’s Table.

Kitchen Butterfly Is Ushering In The New Nigerian Kitchen
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We found her on Instagram a little over a year ago.  Ozoz, aka Kitchen Butterly, had the most fascinating takes on Nigerian food. Not in the boring "I blend pink eba" takes either. Her recipes felt like there was some science to it. Like her kitchen was more chemistry lab than kitchen.

Ozoz is a lot more than a "Nigerian food blogger". The label does her a great disservice.  She's a pioneer redefining our approach to Nigerian food. In another country, she'd be 3 cookbooks in with show on Food Network. 

There are a billion questions we've wanted to ask Ozoz and we finally got a chance to shoot some her way.


Where's your favorite place to go when you need inspiration?

My absolute favourite place for inspiration is in the pages of cookbooks.

Your recipes are very “out there* ”. We know you weren't professionally trained, i.e. Cordon Bleu and the like. Is there some sort of science to how you come up with your recipes?

Ha ha. I’ll take that as a compliment.

It comes from a few places. First, there’s knowledge - I’ve invested a lot of time reading, writing, eating and cooking food so I can literally taste flavours in my head. Then there’s the Japanese kaizen philosophy which I believe in - constant and neverending improvement, that works very well with my OCD :).  

Agbalumo Mimosas

Agbalumo Mimosas

Yaji French Toast

Yaji French Toast

And because of my science background - I’m an Exploration Geologist - I tend to take an experimental approach working from known to unknown, not only to recipe testing but also documentation - checking variables and constants and getting rather geeky about it. I love it!

You might be the only person on the Lagos food scene that puts in extensive work in terms of recipe development. Are we ever going to get all your recipes in one physical spot, like at a restaurant?

Thank you so much. I love food, particularly Nigerian food, and culture. My desire is to share what I know in a way that it makes a difference not only for cooks but for researchers who want to know what’s possible with our ingredients.

Will I ever open a restaurant? No. I think the hard work would take away the pleasure I find in cooking.

 How about more frequent pop-ups or even possibly a cookbook?

Cookbooks? TV shows? Food school? Yes, at some point. Pop-ups? Definitely.

Do you secretly wish you could patent or trademark some of your recipes? Because I know I’d be so pissed off if I came up with Nkwobi Jollof and someone claimed it.

*Crying with laughter* I don’t secretly wish that. The truth is I love sharing these ideas. I’m all about deepening our conversations and knowledge of food and pushing the boundaries for our cuisine’s sake.

Nkwobi

Nkwobi

Nkwobi Jollof

Nkwobi Jollof

We know (at least, we think) your ethos is the New Nigerian Cuisine and from following you it seems as though you don't make a lot of "swallow" type Nigerian food. What do you think is the place for these types of more traditional foods in the New Nigerian Kitchen?

It's important to understand the New Nigerian Kitchen. It's  my philosophy and practice around celebrating Nigerian cuisine in its entirety. It documents everything - history, culture, technique, traditional recipes, contemporary approaches, not just modern takes.

To be honest, time is the only thing that stops me from sharing all the things I wish I could about it. I do make swallow type food o. Plenty sef. I remember the time when I pounded yam (yes, mortar and pestle - I’m an Edo girl just in case) for my daughters who only ate Eba (garri) because they didn’t like poundo flour and converted them. *Super mum*

Asala-Scent Leaf Soup

Asala-Scent Leaf Soup

Or when I found Worowo - a special leafy green and combined it with Asala, African walnut to make a delicious soup. And when I made Banga (palmnut soup) and starch for Sunday lunch. But, I’m only one woman, a mind that’s a riot and not enough time to write it all down. Oh well, some day. So yes, the New Nigerian Kitchen is about it all. Every part of the spectrum - with a focus on celebration, on showcasing, on documenting.

Finish the following sentences

My favorite restaurant in Lagos is ... Terrakulture. Fried yam and goat meat.

Scent Leaf Curry Sauce

Scent Leaf Curry Sauce

I could eat ... bread with butter and jam every day for the rest of my life.

Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey? Jamie Oliver. There’s a recipe from Jamie’s Italy that still has me swooning 10 years on - Ice cream with olive oil and salt

My favourite spice/seasoning is ... Yaji, suya spice (Herbes de Provence is a close 2nd)

The best thing I've ever cooked is ... my scent leaf curry sauce with lemongrass rice and pawpaw salsa. For many reasons.

 

 

One Year In: How did The Hans & René Gelateria Get Here

Our love for Hans & René is a bit of an open secret at this point. Everything about the brand is extremely well done, and no matter what side of the fence you sit on regarding Hans & René, you have to admit they are insanely creative. Evident from their masterful use of Instagram to the actual gelato flavors in the store. Hans & René has gone from little cupcake service with a blog to one of Lagos' favorite dessert spots with 3 branches.

There are a few burning questions we've always wanted to ask Tayo Bolodeoku (who is fondly referred to as Mrs. B), the creative director of Hans & René, and we finally got a chance to shoot our questions her way.


Hans & René used to be just cakes, what prompted you to make the jump to full blown gelateria?

I love food in general but I am a proper sweet tooth. I had always dreamt about having a sweet shop with ice cream, so from the very first day I baked, ice cream was always on my mind.

I decided that if I was going to do it and do it well I had to learn from the very best. Who makes the best cold creams? Italians. Off I went to school in Italy; not to learn how to make ice cream but gelato.

Does it annoy you, even just a little, when people refer to your gelato as ice cream? And also why gelato and not ice cream?

No, it doesn’t annoy me, rather I see it as an opportunity to educate them on what they are having and why they are actually enjoying it so much.

There are many differences in how it's made, what temperature it's stored at, recipes etc but I will give you two basic facts about the difference between gelato and ice cream

  1. Less air churned into it
  2. Wayyy less fat

The results are a richer, creamier texture, no grainy icicles, it is denser with little to no fat to dull your senses when you taste it. A customer of ours said on Twitter “comparing Hans and René gelato to any other ice cream brand in Nigeria is like comparing a store bought chocolate brand to artisanal prepared Belgian chocolate”. It is head swelling and humbling at the same time that people are actually starting to get it.

We heard all H&R flavors are made custom for you. Like, you actually fly to Italy and determine how chocolatey you want your chocolate to be. Is that true?

That question made me chuckle, I wish it were so easy! 

I'm proudly Nigerian and that means my palette is wonderfully complex with all the food we eat....crayfish today, ogbono tomorrow, sheri mangoes, agbalumo etc. We also have our funny feeling about sugar and jedi jedi.

It is our recipe, custom made by us here in Lagos.

Before we opened, we worked extensively with Maestro’s and specialists in the gelato making world in Italy on the technical side of making the gelato.

We did this because as you know, we produce in-house daily and create new flavors on the fly. It was important to ensure that if we tweaked things a little bit that our work wouldn't fall apart.

With the help of my palate and expertise, we came up with our recipes. So to answer your question; There will never be a chocolate brownie gelato that tastes like a Hans and René Chocolate brownie gelato. It is our recipe, custom made by us here in Lagos. We learned the technicalities from the Italians but we refined the process with our own creativity. After all agbalumo, cashew fruit and zobo don’t grow in Italy.

Are there any plans to add savory items to Hans & René's offerings?

Watch this space closely......

Where's your favorite place to go when you need inspiration?

I draw inspiration from everything I see so I don’t have a particular place; however, I wake up at 3am every day and begin to download, research and write down all I have seen and don’t want to forget; that is my favorite time. The world is still and quiet and I can think.

Finish the following sentences

My favorite restaurant in Lagos is … Is it terrible that I don’t eat out much? I like to cook and eat at home with my family.

My all time favorite cupcake flavor is … Good old vanilla!

The best part of my job is … Experimenting in the lab and then seeing people enjoy what I've created makes me really happy.

If I wasn't doing this, I would be … A full-time mummy!

Jollof Rice or Amala … Amala. With gbegiri and ewedu...yes please!!!!


The third Hans & René After Dark is tonight (Saturday, June 4 2016). You should swing by and say hi to Mrs. B.

Ed Note: Hans & René gelateria is one, but they've been making cakes for six years.