Chef and former Big Brother Naija housemate, Miyonse Oluwaseyi Amosu, in this online interview by Saturday Tribune’s MOTUNRAYO SULIEMAN, wades into the Nigeria- versus-Ghana jollof rice standoff. He also shares his passion for cooking and how the reality show has helped him in his chosen career. Excerpts:
The culinary industry in Nigeria is saturated. How do you stand out among your peers?
First of all, I will disagree with you that the culinary industry in Nigeria is saturated. I am of the opinion that it is a fertile ground where your imagination, innovation and diversity can set you apart. My resolve to excel is strengthened more than ever and I believe I will make a mark in the industry.
You studied Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, why did you decide to shun white-collar jobs for professional cooking?
When I made the decision to become a professional chef, I knew I was taking a huge risk. Cooking is something I look forward to doing every day. I don’t think I was looking forward to being redundant in an office.
For those who have the talent of cooking already, should they go to culinary school and why?
Going to a culinary school further broadens your horizon and gives you the solid foundation to build on. You get to meet instructors who have garnered enough experience over the years that can monitor your progress.
How long have you been a professional chef?
I completed my chef programme at Red Dish Chronicles in 2015.
Where did you learn to cook? Did you attend any culinary school?
My first cooking experience was garnered in my mother’s kitchen. My mum ensured my two brothers and I supported my sister in the kitchen. So, yes, my sister introduced me to cooking. After my university education, I enrolled at the Red Dish Chronicles, Gbagada, Lagos.
Which chef would you like to work with?
Presently, I am working with one of the best in the industry; Chef Stone. I worked closely with some chefs in Red Dish Chronicles too but I’d like to test the waters a little and work with Chef Freggs and Chef Benedict.
How has your new found fame increased your clientele?
The Big-Brother Naija was a platform to showcase what I could do. Yes, my popularity surged after the show but I pray it comes with financial gains.
Your catering business, is it like the normal catering services rendered in the country or do you have a unique standard?
I offer private catering services and I am looking forward to catering for parties but it won’t be the normal jollof and fried rice kind.
What else do you enjoy doing?
Aside from cooking, I love to write. I like to write poems, short stories, motivational articles, amongst other things. I used to work for a national daily newspaper as a campus correspondent. I also love to watch and play football; I had dreams of being a footballer at some point in my life. I also love to make people laugh.
You were quoted by a food blogger as claiming to only have interest in Chinese cuisine, why not African?
I respect our culture and ingredients. The African cuisine is so rich and diversified but we all eventually specialise. I like Chinese cuisine but I worked in an Italian restaurant where we created specials while infusing African ingredients. I am proud of my culture and I enjoy our meals.
What is your favourite meal?
I love eating spaghetti.
As a professional chef, what is your take on the controversy between Ghana and Nigeria regarding who makes better jollof rice?
(laughs…) well, we all know which country cooks the best jollof rice! Our jollof rice has levels.
Who are the biggest inspirations for your career?
First and foremost, I will like to acknowledge my late father who always supported me in everything I wanted to do. He inspired me with his words of encouragement. Also, my mother was the superwoman in the background. Chef Stone is my mentor and I respect him a lot. He combines both culinary abilities and entrepreneurial acumen. He is always there to advise me. While I was in the Big-Brother Naija house, he was one of my cheerleaders.
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The joy of seeing your hard work pay off. When a client compliments your food, there is this indescribable joy that overwhelms your sensibilities.