Not often do you encounter the kind of man you’re going to read about here today. Abiola Akanji is not your typical Nigerian married man with a pot belly who is about as useful in the kitchen as a lamp... or a foot mat.
No, Abiola Akanji is not that man. This kitchen artist has helped put together the perfect culinary school for people who want to be bosses with the pot and pans.
Red Dish Culinary school as you will find out soon enough is taking cooking in Nigeria to a whole other level.
What inspired you to start up Red Dish and for how long has Red Dish been in existence?
My passion for food started at a tender age. As a young boy, I was always in the kitchen with mum where I picked up interest for food. I remember watching mum on several occasions and I was intrigued by how swift she was at cooking and how she combined recipes. I knew this fascination was not to be ignored, thus, I started experimenting with various recipes and perfecting the art of cooking which birthed the dream to own a Culinary School. I have been sharing this passion of mine with others since September 2013.
There are a handful of culinary schools out there, what makes Red Dish different?
At the Red Dish Chronicles Culinary School, we pride ourselves on who we are. PASSION is all we are about. Passion for food, passion for the art of cooking, passion for developing new recipes, passion for training others, and passion for absolute excellence in all we do.
Where did you get your training? School or self taught?
While I studied in London, I was privileged to work part-time in a few restaurants, as well as in a couple of big chain supermarkets bakery department, where I picked up some of my culinary skills. I went on to further improve my skills at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, where I received more professional training.
As a guy, people should assume you are married, ladies find it hard to resist a guy who cooks well.
Lol! That’s interesting. I am very much happily married to an amazing woman. However, I strongly advice ladies to assure their men of scoring extra brownie points if they learn how to cook well. We welcome singles and couples to take part in our “Cook & Mingle Class” and “Couple’s Class”, respectively. This is a way of bonding and re-kindling those love sparks.
How do you manage to keep fit if you can cook whatever you feel like eating whenever?
The key to staying fit is exercising, as well as a controlled portion of what you eat. I love that I can cook whatever it is I feel like eating, whenever, but I take care of my health by watching what I stuff down my throat. Being active always is also a plus for me, I consider myself a life robot.
You take online classes? What’s the procedure like?
We offer the option of taking the Continental Culinary Arts Course online, which is quite flexible and takes about 6-12 weeks depending on availability. This online certificate programme helps the trainee develop culinary skills using modern technology like emails, BBM and videos. At the completion of the programme, the trainee is able to prepare a variety of dishes from across the globe.
From previous trainees, what would you say Nigerians want to learn to make, local or intercontinental dishes? What do you think is the reason?
A greater number of Nigerians are now making effort towards improving their culinary skills. Having observed from the several trainees we have had, I would say the majority lean towards learning Intercontinental recipes. My guess is that the majority at large can already prepare some Local Delicacies by default.
Nonetheless, at the Red Dish Chronicles Culinary School, we offer a variety of courses to suit every need. We offer a Continental Culinary Arts Course (also available Online),a Baking and Pastry Culinary Arts Course, an African Culinary Arts Course, a Professional Chefs Programme of Cuisine, and a Professional Chefs Programmeof Cuisine, Baking and Pastry.
Do your local dishes cut across every sphere of the country?
We are taking African food to the next level.It’s no longer good enough to cook the same food day in day out. Thus, we teach our trainees how to make different African food Gourmet Style, from various African countries.
Do you handpick your chefs (trainers) or do they apply to get selected (if I want to become a chef, what do I need to do?)
Our chefs are a team of highly passionate and professional individuals, who were selected and have undergone thorough training in techniques, procedures, and hygiene in line with international best practices.
Do people get to choose their trainers?
As previously stated, our chefs are highly professional and passionate about food and training. Thus, a chef is pre-assigned by the Head Chef (me) to tutor specific Culinary Arts Courses. So no, trainees do not get to choose who trains them.
From previous events in various parts of the country, where were you accepted the best?
I have been privileged to visit different parts of the country; some of those times have been to run Culinary Crash Courses. Fortunately for me, I have been warmly received everywhere.
Any cooking hacks you want to share?
There is a plethora of cooking hacks I could share daily, however, the one I think will be most beneficial to the majority at large, will be how to avoid tears while slicing an onion. There is a link between the muscles in the jaw and the tear ducts that stops the tears flowing while you chew, thus, simply chewing gum whilst cutting an onion can help avoid tears.
Looking ahead, what is the next step for Red Dish?
Since the launch of Red Dish Chronicles Culinary School, we have grown from strength to strength. My dream is for Red Dish Chronicles to be the number one Culinary School in the country and in Africa. Thus, we are looking to branch out in different parts of the country every chance we get. We recently opened a branch in Abuja and I am glad to say it is one of the best decisions I made.
Do you have a secret recipe or self created “signature” dish?
As a matter of fact, I do have a self-created Secret Spice. Here’s the story behind the Famous Chef Stone’s Secret Spice. This spice takes 21 days to brew, as I need to age it for 19 days. After which I beg the gods of spice to accept it. And in the case where they do not, I start the process all over again.
In regards to a signature dish, I frequently experiment and create new recipes daily. One of my favourite signaturedishes has to be my Sautéed Zesty Chilli Tiger Prawns.