Chef SIA-The Cordon Bleu trained chef taking Nigerian cuisine to the world
Chef SIA, Simisola Idowu Ajibodu is a budding chef and entrepreneur based in London, England and Lagos, Nigeria. Her mantra, “To Cook Is To Be Happy,” captures her passion for creativity and fusion of great food.
Trained by the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu London, Chef Sia, with a long-term focus on opening her own restaurant, is currently living a life of respect, innovation, and passion for both people and food. As a Chef, her aim is to reinvent the image of Nigerian flavors using fresh produce and creating a new avenue for all foods to coexist.
It’s not every day you get a proper Chef hosting a dinner in Lagos, so I was excited to go to a private tasting a few days before her roundtable along with some amazingly talented Nigerian culinary gaints like Chef Benedict, Chef Alex, Chef Duharte, Chef Obehi amongst others as well as food writers and bloggers.
As I arrived at the Ikoyi residential address, I was excited to taste the mouth-watering food I had previously seen on the menu. The tasting was an opportunity to taste the food items on the menu and give feedback in time for the actual roundtable.
The dinner started shortly after we arrived and after a brief introduction of the menu by chef Sia, the dinner was off to a good start. On the menu was Panko fried plantains with rodo jam and oxtail pepper soup, which is slow cooked oxtail in a pepper soup gravy with ehuru pie crust. The next dish was fish banga with poached fish which was really tasty. I really enjoyed how rich and balanced the dish was. The flavor permeated through each inch of the fish. The next meal was the rosemary lamb which was rosemary tuo with penja roasted lamb. I like how we got to taste different meals that all complimented each other. We ended the meal with the Chef ‘s crumble which is mixed fruits topped with lavender gari crumble and a petit fours which is mint bliss jelly and Zobo truffle. Overall I found the food experience unique and the food tasty.
I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Sia and find out about her passion for food and culinary experiences. Excerpts
What inspired you to become a chef?
When I was much younger, let’s say between the ages of 6-8, I was fascinated by baking and cooking. I watched my grandma and mother cooking and was always transfixed. Fast forward to boarding school, my favorite class was Food Technology and I knew then that I wanted to be a chef. 3 degrees and a few jobs later, I decided to go to culinary school and I have not looked back
How do you describe your cuisine?
This is an easy answer for me. I attended Le Cordon Bleu London, where they teach primarily French cuisine. I was quite motivated to use the techniques, I learned to recreate Nigerian dishes. Our traditional dishes are bold and flavor so there is no reason why we can’t re-imagine the way they are presented. For instance, our Jollof Rice can be turned into a rice cracker that is served with ponmo mousse and rodo oil. Why not if not!
Is the chef business profitable in Nigeria?
If you are a well-known brand, guests are more willing to want to experience your cuisine. My long-term goal is to open an exclusive modern dining restaurant feeding 15-20 people with a long tasting menu, showcasing locally grown food that is in season. I do hope it is profitable but I am happy for my passion to be experienced through food.
How has your experience at Ikoyi the popular Nigerian restaurant in London, helped you grow as a chef?
Ikoyi has been a wonderful experience. It has allowed my mind to broaden about the wide potential that the West African ingredient has. Having worked in other restaurants such as Cut at 45 Park Lane, I can boldly say that Ikoyi has been the best learning experience.
Is the world ready for West African cuisine to become mainstream, similar to the way Italian and American cuisine is?
East African Cuisine (Ethiopian for instance) is fairly popular. I would say right now it is a novelty. A one time experience with bold flavors. It is going to take a little time (with the help of eager foodies) to take our food to the world!
What is your favorite Nigerian dish?
Haha, this is a very difficult answer to give. I would say anything with plantain from gizdodo to mosa to boli to fried & boiled.
How do your build your clientele?
Engaging guests can be difficult especially when attempting to sell a service related to food. There can be a tendency to solely focus on social media, however, that does not always translate to guests reserving a seat. I rely a lot on recommendations and over time have built relationships with loyal guests.
This culinary experience was different than just going to a restaurant to eat, it brings a different flair to your average dinner party and I look forward to booking Chef Sia for an experience or attending the next round table in the near future
To book an experience with Chef Sia contact
Rating is 4.5 out of 5
Total- N25,000 per person