We found her on Instagram a little over a year ago. Ozoz, aka Kitchen Butterly, had the most fascinating takes on Nigerian food. Not in the boring "I blend pink eba" takes either. Her recipes felt like there was some science to it. Like her kitchen was more chemistry lab than kitchen.
Ozoz is a lot more than a "Nigerian food blogger". The label does her a great disservice. She's a pioneer redefining our approach to Nigerian food. In another country, she'd be 3 cookbooks in with show on Food Network.
There are a billion questions we've wanted to ask Ozoz and we finally got a chance to shoot some her way.
Where's your favorite place to go when you need inspiration?
My absolute favourite place for inspiration is in the pages of cookbooks.
Your recipes are very “out there* ”. We know you weren't professionally trained, i.e. Cordon Bleu and the like. Is there some sort of science to how you come up with your recipes?
Ha ha. I’ll take that as a compliment.
It comes from a few places. First, there’s knowledge - I’ve invested a lot of time reading, writing, eating and cooking food so I can literally taste flavours in my head. Then there’s the Japanese kaizen philosophy which I believe in - constant and neverending improvement, that works very well with my OCD :).
And because of my science background - I’m an Exploration Geologist - I tend to take an experimental approach working from known to unknown, not only to recipe testing but also documentation - checking variables and constants and getting rather geeky about it. I love it!
You might be the only person on the Lagos food scene that puts in extensive work in terms of recipe development. Are we ever going to get all your recipes in one physical spot, like at a restaurant?
Thank you so much. I love food, particularly Nigerian food, and culture. My desire is to share what I know in a way that it makes a difference not only for cooks but for researchers who want to know what’s possible with our ingredients.
Will I ever open a restaurant? No. I think the hard work would take away the pleasure I find in cooking.
How about more frequent pop-ups or even possibly a cookbook?
Cookbooks? TV shows? Food school? Yes, at some point. Pop-ups? Definitely.
Do you secretly wish you could patent or trademark some of your recipes? Because I know I’d be so pissed off if I came up with Nkwobi Jollof and someone claimed it.
*Crying with laughter* I don’t secretly wish that. The truth is I love sharing these ideas. I’m all about deepening our conversations and knowledge of food and pushing the boundaries for our cuisine’s sake.
We know (at least, we think) your ethos is the New Nigerian Cuisine and from following you it seems as though you don't make a lot of "swallow" type Nigerian food. What do you think is the place for these types of more traditional foods in the New Nigerian Kitchen?
It's important to understand the New Nigerian Kitchen. It's my philosophy and practice around celebrating Nigerian cuisine in its entirety. It documents everything - history, culture, technique, traditional recipes, contemporary approaches, not just modern takes.
To be honest, time is the only thing that stops me from sharing all the things I wish I could about it. I do make swallow type food o. Plenty sef. I remember the time when I pounded yam (yes, mortar and pestle - I’m an Edo girl just in case) for my daughters who only ate Eba (garri) because they didn’t like poundo flour and converted them. *Super mum*
Or when I found Worowo - a special leafy green and combined it with Asala, African walnut to make a delicious soup. And when I made Banga (palmnut soup) and starch for Sunday lunch. But, I’m only one woman, a mind that’s a riot and not enough time to write it all down. Oh well, some day. So yes, the New Nigerian Kitchen is about it all. Every part of the spectrum - with a focus on celebration, on showcasing, on documenting.
Finish the following sentences
My favorite restaurant in Lagos is ... Terrakulture. Fried yam and goat meat.
I could eat ... bread with butter and jam every day for the rest of my life.
Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey? Jamie Oliver. There’s a recipe from Jamie’s Italy that still has me swooning 10 years on - Ice cream with olive oil and salt
My favourite spice/seasoning is ... Yaji, suya spice (Herbes de Provence is a close 2nd)
The best thing I've ever cooked is ... my scent leaf curry sauce with lemongrass rice and pawpaw salsa. For many reasons.