Ronke Edoho is the Founder and Creative administrator for the popular Nigerian Food Blog 9jafoodie.com. Ronke started the blog to educate the world on Nigerian food as well as find modern ways to present traditional recipes. She is a certified Clinical weight loss specialist and author of the cookbook Lose It Nigerian. Her cookbook focuses on healthy modification to traditional Nigerian recipes for people who are interested in eating clean and or losing weight.
Born and raised in Nigeria, Ronke has lived in Canada for over eleven years. Ronke spends her spare time creating content for the 9jafoodie blog as well as building relationships with her socia medial followers.
In this inspiring conversation, she takes us through her journey of highlighting the African Cuisine.
Tell us about yourself
I am Ronke Edoho, founder and creative lead for Atare Group which includes 9jafoodie, Lose It Nigerian, Jollof Code and Atare Foods. I am a Chartered professional accountant (CPA) and hold several nutrition certifications including Clinical weightloss management and healthy lifestyle.
Could you share with us your culinary journey and how you became an African chef? What inspired you to pursue this career path?
Food has played an integral role in shaping my life since my early years. Living with my grandparents as a young child provided me with a unique upbringing surrounded by an abundance of homegrown food. They deeply valued the medicinal properties of food and embraced a holistic approach to nourishment, both from plants and animals.
Witnessing the “magic” of farming firsthand, I was mind blow by the transformative power of a single grain of corn that could yield an entire harvest. While many kids my age aspired to become doctors, my passion leaned towards farming. I was fascinated by the interconnectedness of nature and the ability to cultivate and nurture the land. This path has shaped journey till today.
African cuisine is incredibly diverse. Which specific regions or countries’ culinary traditions do you specialize in, and what draws you to that particular cuisine?
Growing up in the North Central region of Nigeria shaped my early culinary experiences. I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents which provided me with a unique opportunity to immerse myself in various cultures. My grandparent’s rental property attracted tenants from different regions of the country, including the South and the North. This diverse community coexisted and cooked together in a communal-style kitchen, creating a vibrant culinary environment that exposed me to a wide range of flavors and dishes from different parts of Nigeria.
What elements of African cuisine do you find most intriguing or unique? Are there any specific ingredients, cooking techniques, or flavor combinations that stand out to you?
There are many, but more importantly 3now, the environmentally conscious approach to cooking is a remarkable aspect of our culinary tradition. Our traditional cooking methods minimizes waste, utilizing every part of the animal, from ear to hove. Furthermore, we harness the full potential of plants, maximizing their health benefits and minimizing their environmental impact. This sustainable approach to cooking is truly ahead of its time.
Additionally, our emphasis on plants goes beyond mere nutrition. We recognize the inherent health benefits of various plant-based ingredients and leverage their potential to enhance our well-being.
This holistic approach to cooking showcases our ancestral wisdom and foresight. Our traditional cooking methods have long prioritized sustainability, resourcefulness, and minimal waste generation.
Can you tell us about a signature dish from your repertoire that represents your style as an African chef? What makes it special, and what inspired its creation?
I believe one of the significant contributions I made was the introduction of the Roasted Nigerian stew base in 2015. This innovation served two important purposes. Firstly, it elevated the flavor profile of a staple ingredient that is commonly used in our daily cooking. Secondly, it introduced convenience to a culinary element that had remained unchanged for possibly hundreds of years. The stew base, also known as blended pepper, holds immense significance in Nigerian cuisine. It forms a critical component of various dishes, ranging from rice to stews and beans. By roasting the ingredients and creating a ready-to-use stew base, I was able to enhance the depth and complexity of flavors while saving time and effort in the cooking process.
African cuisine is often underrepresented or misunderstood in the global culinary scene. How do you work to promote and educate others about the richness and diversity of African food?
It is unfortunate that African food, like many aspects of our region, often faces the perception of being “inferior.” The stigma surrounding Africa as a poor and underdeveloped continent leads people to underestimate the richness and potential of our culinary offerings. However, my approach to my work is centered on highlighting the true essence of African cuisine without trying to conform to external expectations.
I firmly believe that our strength lies in the authenticity and uniqueness of our food. We possess an array of flavors that are robust, vibrant, and capable of rivaling cuisines from any part of the world. Rather than trying to be something we are not, my focus is on showcasing the wealth of culinary treasures we already have.
Are there any challenges or misconceptions you’ve faced as an African chef? How do you overcome these challenges and elevate African cuisine in a competitive industry?
There are definitely many misconceptions as I eluded to above. However, I am very intentional about showcasing & embracing my diversity. Through my work, I am able to Highlight the immense diversity within African cuisine by celebrating regional specialties and local ingredients. I have dedicated my platform to bringing attention to the richness and variety of African culinary traditions.
In your opinion, what role does food play in African culture and identity? How do you preserve and honor traditional food practices while also innovating and introducing new ideas?
Food plays a significant role in our culture and identity. It serves as a means of preserving heritage, expressing creativity, and fostering social connections within our communities home and aboad. Our cuisine is diverse and rich, reflecting the continent’s vast cultural and geographical variations. More importantly, food often carries symbolic meanings and is associated with rituals, celebrations, and ceremonies. It can be a representation of ancestral traditions, spirituality, and the connection between people and the land. Our food heritage is one of our greatest value system.
Are there any particular mentors, culinary schools, or experiences that have shaped your skills and approach as an African chef? How have they influenced your culinary philosophy?
There are loads of people doing amazing things to improve narratives around our good. Ozoz of Kitchenbutterly, Atim of Afrolems to name a few. There is some much inspiring work going on In the space.
What advice would you give to aspiring African chefs who want to celebrate and share their heritage through their culinary creations? Are there any key lessons or insights you’ve gained from your own culinary journey that you’d like to impart?
Embracing your authentic self and deeply understanding your purpose is crucial. There is no need to conform to others’ perspectives or alter our cuisine to meet external expectations. We possess an abundance of desirable qualities that need no alteration.
By staying true to our roots and preserving the essence of our culinary traditions, we have a wealth of offerings that are already highly desirable. It is not necessary to dilute or modify our cuisine to make it more appealing to others. Our authentic flavors, techniques, and cultural heritage already hold immense value and can captivate the palates of those who appreciate them.
Let us celebrate the uniqueness and richness of our culinary heritage without compromising its integrity. By remaining steadfast in our traditions and embracing our genuine culinary identity, we can proudly showcase the beauty and desirability of our cuisine to the world.