Michael Elegbedé: The taste of Nigeria

Nigerian chef Michael Elegbedé is opening a restaurant in Lagos that tells the stories of Nigeria through unique flavours and local ingredients.

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“I was born into the kitchen,” says Michael Elegbedé. With chefs for a mother and a grandmother, cooking and food was very much a part of Elegbedé’s childhood. But it wasn’t until he was halfway through a biology degree that he realised that his real passion lay with food. 

At the time, Elegbedé was living in America. He found that when he cooked to comfort himself he always went back to the flavours of home and the dishes his mother had made. He also noticed how difficult it was to find good representations of African cuisine in America, and even more difficult to find flavours that accurately represented each individual African country.

“I started using Nigerian food as a way of expressing myself,” he says. “We have to begin to realise that our food and our ingredients are who we are”. 

After working under head chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, where he learnt the important of community in cuisine, and at Eleven Madison Park Restaurant in New York, Elegbedé moved back to Nigeria in February 2016 with the aim of opening a restaurant that celebrates the flavours and ingredients of his country. His plan is to build a community of design thinkers around the restaurant, who’ll help him rethink the food systems of Nigeria – from food packaging, labelling, transportation and farming, so that the restaurant becomes a force for change.