Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Cooking Is an Art - Chef Ojo

interview

He took interest in cooking while staying with one of his brothers where he did all the cooking. He later went for training in Catering and today, Taiwo Ojo, is the Senior Chef at the Lagos Airport Hotel. In this interview with JIMOH BABATUNDE, he shares his experience as a chef among other issues. Excerpt:

On how he became a chef

When I left high school, I stayed with one of my brothers who was a bachelor then, there I did all the cooking. That was where I developed interest in cooking.

After then I went to a training centre in Ogun state where I studied Catering for three years, after which I wrote the City and Guild of London examination for advance certificate in catering. All this was between 1978 and 1980. You see there were some leading lights in the sector that we were looking up to then as students. One of such people was the late Elder Alamotu.

When I went for professional attachment in their hotel, Alamotu was involved in the kitchen cooking. I was surprise that a chief could be cooking. He had a Volvo car then too. It was Alamotu that motivated me by telling me that catering was a nice profession.

Alamotu was a good cook in both continental and local dishes; there were also some expatriates who were cooks then too. After my training , I joined Ogun state hotels where I was for over 12 years , there I worked with expatriate chefs and from there I was sent to Amsterdam for three months training.

On his thoughts on cooking

As a cook you are introduced to the food industry, you see cooking is an art. People see cooking as a domestic thing, to me it is more than that, it is a tradition. You need to know about the food preparation, the storage, and the purchasing.

In cooking you take a lot into consideration, because as a chef if you are given ingredients that are not good, you can't have good food, so your cooking starts from purchasing, and then storage facility as there are some degrees you store your food.

In cooking there are things you take into consideration , for you to prepare your vegetable , you need to blanch it, and when you have to cook your meat, you need to marinade it which means that that the seasoning like onion, garlic and others will enter into the meat to make it tasty.

You see, the recipes are very important in the kitchen, you must know the recipe of what you are cooking. Take for instance your eba, you need water, garri. You need to know the amount of garri and water you need to serve five people. So you must have your weighing scale

On advice for young chefs

They must have interest in what they are doing. Cooking I always maintained is a profession and they must take it serious. The profession is not a lazy man's job. It is a strenuous job. They must be prepared to put in hard work and long hours. We cannot expect them to be a chef; we have to teach them to become a chef. It's important to understand that once one graduates from a culinary school, their education is just beginning.

On the funniest experience

The funniest thing about the kitchen is that you cannot please everyone. Some people will appreciate your cooking while others will say what type of food he has cooked?

On his favourite food

I love preparing continental food. I love preparing rice in any form

On the Airport hotel's food

The food here is one of best in the country. As a chef, I go to other hotels and see what they prepare compared to what we have here. Ours is tastier, well seasoned. Our guests do commend us.

On the country's food culture

It is the same problem we are facing in respect to languages that we are facing with food whereby people don't want to teach their children their local languages, so also with the food. Each tribe has a local dish, but the question is how many people teach their children the art of their local dishes.

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