Friday, 19 July 2013

My Chat With One Of Nigeria's Top Chefs, Bola Avant- Garde

 It’s a known fact that Nigerians love white collar jobs, a job with minimal stress and none of the anxiety that comes with starting your own business based on your passion.

How many of us are actually following our passion? How many of us have tried turning our passion to a business venture?

Today I’m featuring one of Nigeria’s Top Chefs, a young, handsome, fresh faced dude. First time I heard about him was on radio and trust me to keep tabs on him and today I have the pleasure of publishing my interview with him. I hope it will be a source of inspiration to you or anyone close to you who would like to venture into his field.


Chef  Bola
1.  Please Introduce yourself briefly . I am a 28 year old Nigerian, who hails from Lagos and Rivers States, I'm an extrovert, a sanguine to be precise. I’m bizarrely optimistic. Think about a bowl of tiramisu with pistachio nuts on a very sunny day; that’s me, bright, cool, fun loving with a twist. I also can be quite impulsive and adventurous.

  2.  What’s your educational background? I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Cell Biology and Genetics, from the University of Lagos Akoka Lagos.

  3.  When did you realize you wanted to move from Cell Biologist to Chef? There was no transitional moment for me, it’s a passion I always had as a kid, with mentors like Iyabo lawani, Funmi Adeoye, Ainsley Harriot, Jamie Oliver to name a few, so I will say it was  basically a chore that eventually became a hobby, and ultimately a profession. Studying cell biology I will say is a plus, because I also have a passion for life, living things and knowledge itself. 
Chicken Cordon Bleu

  4.  What was your family’s reaction? My mother and siblings loved it from the beginning, it was then an anomaly for a guy to have a talent for cooking, as the last child of four boys, it also helped in ameliorating the stress my mother had to go through going to work and coming back to make a proper meal for the family. My father was a bit hesitant initially, that none of his sons would end up in the kitchen of some hotel or restaurant.

  5.  Have you had any formal training? If yes, where? I have not had formal training, I am self-taught with quite an amount of experience.

Ragout & Tilapia
  6.  Apart from running Avant -Garde Cuisines, Are you associated with any hotel/restaurant in Nigeria? At the moment, I am not

  7.  Describe Afro-Euro-Asian Cuisine and what are your major must haves when preparing this fusion? Afro-Euro-Asian cuisine simply means a combination of African, European and Asian cuisines. It’s basically done by marrying together components of cuisines of the regions mentioned, for example having Pasta (European) served with Sweet and Sour Chicken (Asian) and A Suya Beef vegetable stir Fry (African).

  8.  What makes you stand out from other Nigerian Chefs?   I pride myself in being pro health. I believe in dishing highly presentable and tasty yet healthy dishes. As I have a back ground in genetics and nutrition. I make paramount the nutritional and health values of my meals. I also propose healthier and tasty options in food preparation, for example in some recipes I find lower calorie options, like cooking with wine as opposed to conventional fatty methods.

  9.  What’s the largest number of people you’ve ever catered to at once? I have catered to over a  thousand people at a time; it was a cocktail/ barbecue party while I was in the university. And also a corporate soiree of 800 hundred people professionally.
Smoke Me Sweet ( A rolled stuffed bacon with dates and cream cheese

  10.  Who are your clients so far? I have worked with a wide range of clientele; such as corporate bodies, multinationals, institutions like JMG Generator, Nigerian Breweries, University of Lagos and Integrated Business Strategies. I also carter high end events for very influential individuals ,friends and family, with a fair share of pro bono.

  11.  Do you cook already documented dishes or you also come up with new dishes? I cook some classic documented dishes, but then as a Fusion chef, I create meals of my own. As a matter of fact, Avant Garde drives on a mantra of art inspired cooking, which gives room to be innovative.

Chef Bola doing a Flambe 

  12.  Based on your knowledge of your industry, what do you think is lacking?  The lack of appreciation for foreign cooking techniques; many of us have very stoic pallets, and are not willing to try new things. This inhibits the ability and or drive to want to explore or even develop African cuisine which I am particular about.

Efo Riro Gourmet Style

 13.  What has been your personal experience while carving a niche for yourself?   I would say, it has been a bitter sweet, roller coaster experience; you obviously have people who critique what you do, for  lack of understanding of the art of inventive cooking. Like recently my gourmet styled Efo Riro with garnish was critiqued by someone who said it looked like a bowl of sacrifice; but paradoxically it got rave reviews from lots of people and good ratings from professional chefs, one even called it Efo Nicoisse (meaning Nice in French).

  14.  Why do you think there are few professional chefs in Nigeria? As I have mentioned earlier there’s this lack of appreciation of Food in itself and inventive cooking, an average African wants his food served and not “disguised”. Also many people don’t find being a chef as a worthy profession; lots of parents don’t foster the idea of training their kids to be chefs and or deem it as a desirable career option.
Chicken Pineapple Ragout

  15.  What has been your biggest inspiration?   My mother; who is my greatest fan and critic, my friends and Family, mostly how my fan base is looming. And that look of satisfaction and sustained ecstasy people have when they taste my meals, which ultimately drives me to want to do more

  16.  What is your ultimate goal?   I want to be a world renowned celebrity chef, a prof. Wole Soyinka of the culinary world, an authority in food.

17. Personally, I'm an avid follower of Food Network on DSTV and I'm always disappointed at the low quality of food competitions in Nigeria both in performance and quality of judges, What's your impression of our competitions and how do you think we can get it right? Basically, Budget and Production matters, we have the intellectual property to execute world standard cooking competitions. Like the Knorr Taste Quest I was a part of, a lot went into it regarding planning and production. It's not only a cumbersome task, its quite ambiguous as well. I believe we can achieve such international standards as are seen on Food Network and its likes, with a well funded budget. The competence of judges still boils down to the fact we lack a wide range of well trained celebrity chefs to choose from. I believe a lot of Exposure is being put into the culinary industry, and we can only get better.

He's won Competitions Too

18.  What advice would you give aspiring Nigerian Chefs?   Believe in yourself, challenge yourself. I read a book on putting in 10,000 hours in what you do to become a professional in that field (Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell). This means hard work, passion, focus and loving what you do, irrespective of who puts you down. Accept a worthy competition as it always makes you better. But first get an Education because fundamentals are the basics of fun. As my friend always says, “Love what you do and do what you love”.

>>> Curtain Closes<<<

Hope you enjoyed our chat? If you would like to get in touch with Bola or see more of his cuisines, check his details below:

Twitter: @bola_avantgarde


  1. Nice one dude.. Keep up the good work..bode

  2. The best chef in 9ja...represntin jk estate isolo...u re mouthed

  3. Great!innovation rules the world....

  4. Hehehe i jus de wonder how these kind food dey taste

  5. Very Much Inspiring. For someone who feels about Food as much more than what goes into the mouth, I would say a Big Thumbs up to you as you pursue ur career as a Chef. Cordon Bleu all the way!

  6. Dats nice of u bola,keep it up

  7. Nice job bro.

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  9. That's the spirit bruv, greater and greater you I pray, you're a big inspiration to me and a whole lotta people, looking forward to having a taste myself

  10. When next you interview him pls get him to fix a date and invite us to come and taste all these lovely looking dishes. So that we too can endorse him...