Nigerian food blogger and businesswoman, Bukie Akinmade loves food and does not pretend about it. She eats all kinds of food and does all sorts of fantastic meals with whatever she finds in her kitchen. The self-taught chef and recipe developer’s love for food led her to start her YouTube Channel – The Kitchen Muse in 2016, sharing alternative recipes, popular Nigerian recipes and other interesting food procedures she makes at home. She has since featured in magazines and TV programmes, these eventually won her the Eloy award for Female Chef of the Year in 2017. The consummate wife and mother of two boys has collaborated with several major brands including Quaker, Maggi and GTBank, while she shares daily meal inspirations to her over 75,000 Instagram followers. In this interview with MARY NNAH, she revels in her profound love for cooking
Tell us how your love for food started.
I started cooking at a very early age and that is how I fell in love with food. I didn’t actually attend any culinary school. I am self-taught chef and I cook a lot for my family and friends. I love to eat food. I like to do all kinds of things with food. I love being around food, basically.
One would expect that one who loves food like you say you do, would be chubby but here you are, slim and fit. How do you manage that?
Loving food or eating food does not necessarily mean that you would be fat. You have to develop a healthy relationship with food. I love food and there is nothing that I stay away from, I eat everything that I like but I eat in moderation and I try to balance the things that I eat.
At what age exactly did you make your first meal?
I made my very first meal at the age of nine. I made eba and it had a lot of lumps. My mom insisted that I made it because she felt I was old enough to prepare my own meals. So, I attempted, obviously the water wasn’t hot enough and it ended up having lumps, so it was half way between drinking gari and eba.
So how did you pick up from that first and ‘horrible’ experience? Did you attend any culinary school to perfect your skills?
My mother was a kind of person that you have to learn to do your own thing by yourself, so if I needed to make my own food, I would make it under her supervision and from there I liked to just put things together and just make a meal. So growing up, even when I was in boarding school, I would just help out in the kitchen. After secondary school when I came home, I still liked to be in the kitchen to cook even if it was just common toast and from there people at home just started depending on me to make food for them. And that was how it all started. So, in 2016, I decided that I was going to start my own food blog and YouTube Channel – The Kitchen Muse, where I share alternative recipes and popular Nigerian dishes as well as things that I enjoy to eat in my house. I share video recipes on how to make these things. I have never been to any culinary school.
What did you study at school?
I studied Design and Advertising at the University of Salford, Manchester, but my love for food has overshadowed that. I still try to do a bit of graphic designing when I can for my brand. That’s as much as I have practised.
Why exactly did you choose to start a YouTube channel where you share your food recipes?
When I was studying in the university at Manchester in the UK, I was always home sick. I wanted a lot of typical Nigerian meal which weren’t readily available, so I depended on YouTube to find recipes for these things that I liked. Then, I noticed that even though there were lots of recipes on various Nigerian and African meals, there weren’t particularly authentic. So, you would cook it and because you are far away from home, you just have to deal with it anyhow. So, I started my YouTube channel so that I could share authentic Nigerian recipes, just the way we eat it back in Nigeria. That is what I wanted to make available to other people, that were either in Nigeria and didn’t know how to make it, or for other that are abroad and craving for those things just like I did when I lived abroad.
So, apart from my YouTube channel, I have a blog which is www.kitchenmuse.ng.com where I share popular recipes there as well as videos. I share kitchen arts and how to do other things in the kitchen. I am still populating the blog but it is going to include also how to organise your kitchen space, how to store things properly and just generally how to make life easy as a working mom.
One would think every individual’s recipe is authentic as far as they are concerned.
Well, when I say authentic, I mean the typical way that it is made. Like in Nigeria, we have a lot of tribes, and different people make same dish different ways, for instance egusi soup. You would find that the people from South-west Nigeria tend to cook their egusi in a different way, but the Igbos cook it differently but they are all same egusi soup. If you know what you want and you know that you want this type of food, you can sort of come to my YouTube channel and you would find out exactly what to do.
Has preparing meals been a source of income for you at any point?
Yes, it has. In 2014, I started a catering business, which I have now stopped. I started the catering business at a time I was doing corporate catering and that had provided me income from 2014 to 2018. However, I stopped because I relocated and it is a different market now and I have to approach the different range of clients over here differently.
However, I do other businesses. I also have a concierge gift company where we curate gifts for different people and companies. So, I do different things beside food.
Are there people you look up to as role model in the culinary sector?
Well, I admire quite a number of chefs in Nigeria and other part of Africa and even beyond. I admire Siba Mtongana, a South African celebrity chef known as the host of the Cooking Channel show Siba’s Table and Cooking with Siba. I admire her because she cooks from her heart; she cooks foods that she loves and for the people she loves.
I like Ayesha Curry, a Canadian-American actress, celebrity cook and television personality. She also cooks for her family even though she has a couple of restaurants. She cooks genuinely from her heart for the people that she cares about, which what I also do.
Explain your typical day as a chef.
As a chef I am also a content creator, so, when I wake in the morning, I first sort out what I am going to eat, get my kids ready for school and when they are gone, it’s now my ‘me time’ And in my ‘me time’, that’s when the chef part comes in. And I’m constantly thinking, what am I cooking today? I go through my comments box and usually I get topics to talk on from the messages and comments I get on my social media pages or get ideas on what videos to shot and share on my social media. So throughout the day, I am just going through the comments, writing down questions that need to be answered. And after that, it is more of cooking for my family because the kids are going to be back soon, so I have to make food for my children and then my husband. And then just unwind by watching TV and then go to bed.
What satisfaction do you get teaching people your recipes?
It makes a whole lot of difference to me teaching people how to make different foods because in the early days, and this how I knew I was going to be still doing this, people will ask me simple question as how do you boil rice. And it occurred to me that the things that we take for granted are not as easy for other people. So frying eggs, some people will do with their eyes closed, but it is not so easy for other people. And then there are women that are married to Nigerians, but they themselves are not Nigerians and they don’t even know how to make eba, which we may find is the easiest thing to do. So it gives me a whole lot of joy to be able to show to people that this is how you do it. And one of the things I stand by is how easy it is to cook and how everybody can cook.
Cooking is not something you find tedious or time consuming, which is why I simplify my recipes and make it easy for everybody to cook, man and woman; young and old.
I’ve developed several recipes over the years and I started this in 2016; there is nothing that is particularly new but I put my twists on recipes and make them slightly different or basically make them the way I enjoy them.
How long does it take to make a good meal?
You can make a good meal between 20 and 25 minutes depending on what you want to make. I believe in prepping ahead, so a lot of the things I cook with are already prepared before I start cooking.
How would you describe an ideal healthy meal?
Well, a healthy meal is different for different people. For me, a healthy meal is eating something that I like but eating it in the right portion and balance.
What is that ingredient that you cannot do without when cooking?
I can’t do without garlic in fresh or powder form. I love garlic and I put garlic in almost everything that I cook. Aside the health benefits of garlic, I just I love the flavour and the aroma.
What’s the secret of cooking perfect meal?
The secret of cooking a perfect meal is to know the people that you are cooking for. That way you can incorporate, because a perfect meal is different for everybody, it varies from person to person but to cook a perfect meal for one person, you have to understand what that person likes.
What has been the highest point for you as a chef?
Some of the high points are when international brands approach me to do work for them and this merely stems from what I do on my social media pages and on my blog – IG:@thekitchenmuse; FB:@thekitchenmuse; YouTube:@thekitchenmuse; Twitter: @thekitchenmuseng. And it is great to see that people are watching and like what I do and want to partner me either behind the scene or on screen. It really makes me feel good. My YouTube channel is born out of passion, even those I get paid for putting out the stuff. My major business is the concierge gift service called Leila and Gold.
What are your future plans as a chef?
My main goal is to inspire more people to cook and that I will push in different ways. I am working on a new project right now and the main goal of the project is to encourage more people to cook and more people to love food as well as understand food.
What would you advice young people who have difficulties in cooking but desire to be good cooks?
First of all is to overcome that fear; it is all in your head it is all in your mind. There is nothing you cannot do in the kitchen; there is no special skills se for the kitchen. If someone put out a recipe for something that you like, just follow the recipe step by step and you would be amazed at what you can accomplish following someone’s else’s recipe and that would improve your skill in cooking.
There is no need to have any fear of cooking. The first thing is just to overcome that fear because it is all in your mind. If you try the first time and you fail, try again and just keep trying and you would be amazed. And depending on how far you want to go, you can get a culinary training, that’s if you want to be a chef in any of the hotels. There are several skills that they teach over there. I personally didn’t go to any of the schools; I just got into the kitchen and started cooking, so it just depend on how far you want to go.
Get in the kitchen and show your love for food. We all need to develop a healthy relationship with food and anything that is edible. There are so many things that we can do so we need to get out there and explore the different things that we can do with food.