If you watch ebony TV on DSTV you will no doubt have seen Uzo Orimalade cooking up a storm on the Chefrican show or more recently on the Bukas and Joints show.
Here is a woman with a serious passion for food not just in the kitchen or on the table but in the garden as well and she has the qualifications to prove it. “Foodpreneur” as she refers to herself is the perfect word to describe her.
With a background in Law, Business and Finance, she eventually decided to embrace her passion and pursue a new career in the food industry. After training in international hospitality and tourism, she founded Cupcake Couture which provides premium baked goods and Uzo’s Food Labs which provides food consulting services and more. She also has a passion for organic gardening and sells cut produce and seedlings.
Thanks to Uzo for taking the time to answer our questions.
What name do you go by?
Where is home for you?
Is where you’re living now different from where you grew up? How so?
Yes. I spent primary school years in Port Harcourt. We moved to Lagos and I finished primary and secondary school in Lagos. I moved to England for undergraduate study and then to the US for graduate school and work.
Do you cook for pleasure or as your profession? Both?
Where did you learn to hone your culinary skills?
I started out shadowing my mom in the kitchen from a very young age. I really came into my own when I lived on my own and played hostess pretty much every weekend.
What are you up to right now?
It’s going to be a pretty intense last few months of the year. We have a few products under the Uzo’s Food Labs launching, as well as our website. We are also planning our first public cooking demo in December.
Cooking is one of the best ways to let your mind wander while creating something totally unique and delicious. When you’re idly chopping, stirring, and frying, what are you most often thinking about?
‘I cannot wait to taste’. My mind wanders a lot so I am also thinking of different ways I can use the ingredients in other recipes.
Everyone’s got a kitchen tragedy – their stove went up in flames, they melted a spatula, dinner was ruined. Tell us about your last disaster (so the rest of us can feel a little better about ours!)
It was a baking disaster. I used baking powder instead of baking soda and filled the baking pan almost to the top. Batter spilled everywhere in the oven. It was awful. And cleaning the oven and scraping burnt bits was not fun.
Who do you credit for your love of cooking? If it’s someone special, tell us all about them.
I have to say my mother started my love affair with cooking and home entertaining.
Are you an adventurous eater? What’s the last exotic dish you’ve tried?
I am pretty adventurous and willing to try most things at least once. I draw the line at dog meat, snake meat and bush meat like grass cutter and bush rats. Ewwwwww!
If we were to step into your kitchen right now (don’t worry, we’re not looking at the dirty dishes), what would you be cooking? What would we smell, taste, or hear?
Probably mixing a marinade of some sort to smother some cut of meat in for some low and slow roasting time in the oven.
African food is very diverse, which makes it so mysterious for most cooks around the world. How would you describe African cooking to someone who lives somewhere totally different, somewhere like Iceland?
Palate wakening food cooked with love and soul. Food that tantalizes all your senses.
What’s your ultimate African “comfort food”, the thing that takes you back to being a little kid in a big world?
I love okra soup. I remember settling down with a spoon and a bowl full of soup with fish and being happy. No swallow accompaniment required. I still do it. That’s comfort food to me.
What are some healthy bites you enjoy in your kitchen?
Nothing beats fruits and vegetables. With my organic garden and the wonderful produce I get to harvest right outside my door, I juice a lot. I add everything from basil to kale to seasonal fruits and enjoy a tall glass of this at least once a day.
Are you the type of person to measure everything out, or do you cook more intuitively, “eyeballing” ingredients as you go?
When I bake, I am like a scientist and measure everything. I eyeball ingredients when I cook but as I document recipes for my website and future cookbook I am learning to turn eyeballing recipes into measurements so people can replicate with success.
When someone takes that first bite of the tasty, delicious food you’ve prepared, what kind of reaction are you always secretly hoping for?
For eyes to widen a little bit. I love to feed people and have them leave happy and satisfied. Like my food has wrapped them in a cocoon and they feel safe’ warm and happy, happy, happy.
My favorite kitchen tool is the Silicone Spatula – I’m amazed at how versatile it is in the kitchen. It mixes, it scrambles, it scrapes, it stirs, it folds… I can go on! What’s yours, and why?
I am a collector of things and I love spatulas too. I have a large collection in different colors and sizes.
Vanilla or Chocolate?
Where do you typically shop for your food?
If you were one of the Spice Girls, which “Spice” would they dub you?
In your opinion, what’s one of the most underrated ingredients used in African cooking?
Garri. Most people simply use it to accompany soups or drink with sugar and water. Garri can be used in baking recipes. It can be used in place of breadcrumbs to create a crust on meat and seafood.
Some like it hot! Are you into sweating, panting, eyes watering spice in your food, or do you like mellow dishes?
I am a middle of the road gal.
What’s a spice you like to use that packs a TON of flavor in just a small pinch?
Salt. Salt is a flavour enhancer so you really don’t need a lot. In addition, if you use stock cubes and mixed spices, you need to be extra careful adding more salt as these contain salt already
What’s one ingredient you love, but others may be scared to use?
Locust beans. I Use this a lot in soups and stews and even in certain rice dishes.
Here’s a challenge! Tell us about your pantry – using only one sentence.
What’s your #1 birthday meal request?
It’s not a meal. Lol. Cake
What is your main culinary pet peeve?
Ridiculous Inedible garnishes.
What is your culinary Superpower?
I see recipes and I can tweak them without trying them out. Years and years of cooking, reading and research and I can tell what works and what needs to be altered to work for me.
What is Uzo up to this month?
If you happen to be in Lagos on the 11th or 12th of December, stop by the Fiesta of Flavors event on Victoria Island where Uzo will be showing off her chef skills as one of the headline chefs of the event.
I am so humbled by the responses and orders for our aprons. Thank you. I admit that I was so very nervous unveiling the collection. Wondering if anyone else would love them as much as my team does. A special thank you to @femiojei for not looking at me funny as I articulated the dream and for working so hard to meet my admittedly high standards – down to inspecting thread. Lol We are taking orders for the next batch of aprons that will be ready for pickup and delivery in the 2nd week of December. Please send an email to email@example.com for enquiries and to place orders. #uzosfoodlabs #fromuzosfoodlabs #mogulinthemaking #lagos #nigeria #madeinnigeria #buynigerian #aprons #apronswag #gifts #marthastewartofafrica #merchandising #expandingthebrand #branding #proudlynigerian #dreamscancometrue #FoodLovers #food #Foodie
See this Instagram photo by @cupcakecouturelagos * 136 likes
Uzo is also very well known for the cute and quirky aprons she wears on TV shows and YouTube videos. So she went ahead and designed a collection of aprons that reflects her personality and culture. These aprons are selling like hot cakes at the moment so if you want one, get in touch with her ASAP!