MCZ Exclusive Interview with Tola Akerele, founder & author, The Orishirishi Cookbook.

The co-founder, Bogobiri House, Tola Akerele and author ‘The Orishirishi Cookbook’ (Orishirishi which literally means, ‘varieties’) is our guest this week on MCZ Exclusive Interview. The founder of Orishirishi Kitchen and cookbook author shared insight on the cookbook which “is a comprehensive guide to Nigerian cuisine, infusing the quirks and tips required to prepare some of finest delicacies out of Africa.”

Tola Akerele spoke with My Cookery Zone Food Media, on the inspiration behind writing Orishirishi cookbook, the challenges of writing cookbooks, the acceptance of the cookbook by the general populace and many more.

Co-founder, Bogobiri House, Tola Akerele & author The Orishirishi Cookbook.

CAN OUR READERS MEET YOU?

Yes. My name is Tola Akerele. I am the co-founder of Bogobiri House and the founder of the Orishirishi Kitchen. I also run a design business, iDESIGN. I am able to explore these different forms of my creative expression with the support of a great team, both on the home and work front, respectively. I live in Lagos with my husband and 2 children. Food and travel are critical parts of our lives. My work focus is influenced by my exuberant life outlook which leaves room for endless adventures and expression in varying creative and cultural forms.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THE ORISHIRISHI COOKBOOK?

It is something I have wanted to do for a long time. The Orishirishi Cookbook is a documentation of selected recipes from the Orishirishi kitchen at Bogobiri House, borne out of a passion to share traditional Nigerian food from all regions with local and international visitors to Bogobiri House.

The Orishirishi Cookbook is a comprehensive guide to Nigerian cuisine, infusing the quirks and tips required to prepare some of the finest delicacies out of Africa. Not only does it take you on a journey of discovery, it opens you up to the Nigerian culture vastly expressed through food. I think it is especially relevant to people in the diaspora who are either looking to connect with their roots or are simply fascinated by Nigerian meals. I wrote and designed it with the aim of celebrating our rich diversity, featuring a stunning array of imagery that will inspire you to try out that recipe you have always wanted. It is more than just another cookbook that gathers dust on your bookshelf. It is a compelling insight into what it means to eat Nigerian and it is accessible to everyone in and outside Nigeria.

HOW HAS THE ACCEPTANCE OF ORISHIRISHI COOKBOOK BEEN?

I have been blown away by the response to the book. Interestingly, the targeted market was the Diaspora but I was pleased to find that the demand here has been quite impressive. The appreciation of the book has also come from all ages and gender which I also found interesting. The book makes it easy anyone to be able to whip up a great dish, with a step by step guide. The infusion of Nigeria’s rich food culture, proverbs, and imagery has received wide praise. It is also a coffee table book that can be displayed in your kitchen of sitting room bookshelf. My objective was primarily to take you through to the different parts of Nigeria through food!

TAKE US THROUGH THE PROCESS OF CREATING THE ORISHIRISHI COOKBOOK?

I have had the idea for years. Each year, I would say next year! It was not until the COVID lockdown that I was able to sit down and start writing. Although, I had the recipes from when I created the Orishirishi Kitchen three years ago. I had a clear idea that I wanted physical book from the onset. It was a process of just structuring the framework of the book initially and then fleshing the book out with the necessary details. Of course, the framework gets tweaked along the way. The thing about writing and completing a cookbook is its not something you can do on your own in the way you would write a fictional book. The layout is crucial, as well as the visual representation of the food. So, I had to source for a good food photographer and graphics designer. And boy did I put them to work…we made countless versions of the work before I was satisfied. I had the most patient graphic designer! Also, working with a good editor and proofreader was important. After all the time and effort that went into creating and curating the images used in the book, it was also important that I brought it to life in the best printing quality I could find.

That is it in a nutshell!

DO YOU THINK IT’S CHALLENGING CREATING / WRITING COOKBOOKS AND BEING AN AUTHOR IN NIGERIA?

Writing requires a lot of focus and we live in an environment that can be really chaotic! I had to find quiet times to write, usually the early hours of the morning when the house was asleep. From the perspective of putting the book together, I consider myself fortunate because the team understood my vision so that made it easier. However, there were difficulties getting the exact measurements for every single item: a cumbersome yet essential phase when creating an international standard cookbook. As for the “challenge” of being an author in Nigeria, only time will tell!

BECAUSE WE HAVE A SYSTEM WHERE THE ATTENTION SPAN OF PEOPLE IS QUITE LIMITED AND PEOPLE WANT TO READ THINGS IN A JIFFY, DO YOU THINK THERE’S A FUTURE FOR NIGERIAN COOKBOOKS OR BOOKS IN GENERAL?

I agree that our attention spans are certainly not what they used to be in our ever-changing world. However, I do believe there will always be room for Nigerian Cookbooks. It’s a book you read in order to perform a function – cooking. Looking at it in this way allows you see endless possibilities to variations of Nigerian food. The Orishirishi Cookbook is a tribute to the vastness of Nigerian cuisine. I hope it’s the beginning of more Nigerian Cookbooks.

WHAT IS THE GOAL SET TO ACHIEVE BY WRITING THE ORISHIRISHI COOKBOOK?

I wanted to write the Orishirishi Cookbook to present Nigerian food in a cultural and visually appealing context. The goal of writing the book was to have a reference point for preparing a lot of Nigerian dishes. My hope is that you will pick up the book and be excited about trying something that you may not be exposed to or do not know how to make. So I was intentional about the visual elements side of the book. Also, I had grown up eating Nigerian food majorly from the South West region. Today, however, my favourite dish is Native soup, discovered on a work trip to Port Harcourt in the South-South region. I hope that this book provides more inspiration for cross-cultural experimentation!

Co-founder, Bogobiri House, Tola Akerele & author The Orishirishi Cookbook.

DOES THE ORISHIRISHI COOKBOOK COME IN SOFT COPY AS WELL?

The plan is to be able to purchase it in soft copy but this option is not available at the moment.

WHERE CAN THE ORISHIRISHI COOKBOOK BE PURCHASED?

It can be purchased from http://www.orishirishikitchen.com/cookbook/ for local orders and https://orishirishi-kitchen.myshopify.com/ for international orders also on Amazon UK. There are a number of stockists in Lagos as well – Quintessence, Roma, Bogobiri and Temple Muse. It will be stocked at a number of bookstores from February. The plan is to dispatch from the States starting February, in order to reduce the cost of delivery from the UK.

IN GENERAL, WHAT IS THE DREAM OR SET OUT GOAL OF TOLA AKERELE IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY IN THE NEAREST FUTURE?

You will have to wait and see!

CONNECT with Tola Akerele and Orishirishi Kitchen by clicking the highlighted text.

Published by My Cookery Zone

My Cookery Zone is a platform where food lovers can read up on food related articles. This initiative started in 2013, an idea to tell food stories not forgetting the people behind the exquisite cuisine and this hasn't changed. We are determined to keep it as authentic as possible and this has made us emerge best in Food Media. MCZ has survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value what we do here. To help us continue kindly follow the blog, share our content and donate.

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