A restaurant in Lagos is setting out to elevate Nigerian street food staples to fine dining, tapping into a growing hunger in the city for upscale West African food.
Classic West African dishes, passed down from generations are served in today’s busy street side canteens.
A Senegalese pioneer of African cuisine, Pierre Thiam said there is a combination of ancestral know-how with elements of popular cuisine.
Coming to a country that isn't your own and presenting a cuisine that aims to be inspired by this region is a tricky endeavour.
“Coming to a country that isn’t your own and presenting a cuisine that aims to be inspired by this region is a tricky endeavor. I was expecting to meet some resistance,” he said, but was “pleasantly surprised” at the positive reaction.
He said It’s not just the taste of the dishes that get people hooked adding that a, hearty West African food, is usually plated with a discerning eye.
A food blogger, Nosa Oyegun, said the food people grew up could be presented in a way they would not expect.
“There’s that real fine dining with Nigerian food, which we had never seen anywhere, that’s really fascinating.”
Oyegun and Folayemi Agusto, better known as “Nosa and Folly,” run an influential food blog “Eat. Drink. Lagos”, where they review restaurants across the city.
Both are in their 30s and are among some of the young Nigerians who have returned to the country after studying overseas.
Oyegun said since he came back to Lagos in 2013, many restaurants have opened catering to the emerging middle class in Nigeria.
But amid the barrage of pizza shops and burger joints, few restaurants have tried to capitalize on local cuisine.
Thiam said across the continent, there is a plethora of ingredients that are nutritious and full of flavor.
A chemist by training, he said he didn’t think he could turn his passion for cooking into a full-time job.
He said he thought cooking was for women until he left his native, Senegal to work in New York and climbed the ranks from bus boy to chef.
Thiam claims he introduced a Western audience to African cuisine and hopes to accomplish a similar feat in Lagos.