‘How I give local dishes a luxury look’

Funmi Adesoji is a food connoisseur with a knack for giving a western outlook to tasty, traditional dishes. She speaks with BLESSING GBARADA on her food journey and how to turn traditional dishes to appealing sights through plating.


When did you first begin to cook?

I would say I started around 10 years old. My mum owns a catering school; so, I have always been around her cooking. I started off baking and from there my love just developed.


Is there a moment in your life that you can identify as pivotal in deciding your choice of going fully into cooking?

I started off small just doing meat pie for my friends and family. I started mainly from boredom of just being at home while my first child was at school. I stopped for a while, as I didn’t take it too seriously, and also I nursed the fear of it not being successful. I then gave birth to my second child, and whilst being at home with her I became bored of my daily routine and went straight back to the kitchen and I have never looked back since.


How have you changed since you first started out in the kitchen? What were you then compared to what you are now, in terms of knowledge or commitment?

In the beginning I was a bit intimidated and fearful of being judged for posting my food online. However, over time I have gained confidence in myself and my ability to provide my customers with homely and luxury meals. I have also learnt how to manage my workload, as I am now busier than I was when I first started.


How do you stay creative day after day?

I do a lot of research. I am constantly reading cookbooks, magazines, but I must say a lot of my plating and designs are freestyle. I am quite a creative person so I just let my creative juices flow whilst I am plating.


Do you get to eat out a lot?

I do; I eat out quite regularly.


How do you pick the right restaurant from the get-go?

I love luxury food and I love seafood!! So most of my choices are based on that. I would say my favorite restaurants are Novikov and Hakkasan in London Mayfair.


If you’ve had a really bad day, what’s the negative trait of character that you might demonstrate in the kitchen?

Once I get in the kitchen, I block everything out. My kitchen is my happy place and cooking is like my therapy. Cooking is my passion and when I’m cooking, I am always happy.


What’s a word of advice you would give someone looking to get into professional cooking today?

My number one piece of advice would be “do not give up on your dream!” Do not be afraid to try new things and experiment. Make sure you research and advertise yourself on social media.


What do you like most about what you do?

I know this sounds cliché, but I love everything about it.


How about what you like least?

I can’t say I have a least favourite thing, I honestly love it, but sometimes some people’s social media comments can be a bit mean.


What are your thoughts on new forms of technology in the kitchen?

We are in the 21st century and things are improving as the years and days go by. An improved, or as they say, technology kitchen is a welcome development. The most important thing for me is to get the food cooked properly and taste perfect. To be honest, the major advantage is that it makes cooking a lot faster and easier but it’s expensive to set up.


How do you go about updating traditional dishes while remaining faithful to the culture, or about creating new dishes within the culture?

My dishes remain traditional in terms of ingredients. I would say it is the plating that gives it a modern twist.


Any memorable kitchen disasters?

I will never forget this day! It was quite early on in my journey. I had a big order of about 50l of Jollof rice. I used the wrong rice and the whole thing went soggy. I had to start all over again and was so stressed. From now on, I have learnt my lesson and will never use that rice for Jollof again!


Where do you draw inspiration for the recipes you create?

My dishes are traditional. I serve typical Nigerian and Igbo meals. However, I westernise them when I serve them by minimising the usual large portion sizes and decorating the plate to give it the restaurant luxury feel.


What is the difference between you making a meal for a client versus making a meal at home?

There is no difference in what I serve to my family. The same food I would serve to my family and friends is the same I would serve to my customers.