The Red Dish Chronicles
Known famously as Chef Stone, Abiola Akanji is the founder of Red Dish Culinary School, one of the most reputable culinary schools in Nigeria. Akanji’s talent for food making has been evident since his childhood and through his time at the French Culinary Institute and International Culinary Education Centre, both in New York. In this interview with Omenka, he sheds light on decade-long career in the art of food making and his school Red Dish Chronicles.
You earned a degree in business management from London Metropolitan University. What prompted a career change and how did this experience prepare you for a profession as a chef?
I have always had passion for cooking but like most Nigerian youth back then, this was not enough. Thus I went ahead to get a degree in business management, which definitely came in handy. Even after the business degree, going into culinary arts was a hard sell to my folks. However, I would not trade my culinary and business experience for anything as they have both been key elements to my career.
Your Red Dish Chronicles has gained the attention of food enthusiasts all around Nigeria. How did you come about the name?
Right after culinary school, I relocated to Nigeria and my mum gave me a gift of red dishes. I started cooking and plating with these red dishes and eventually caught the attention of followers on social media. One day, one of my followers commented under one of my pictures saying “this guy and his red dish chronicles sef”, and voila, the Red Dish Chronicles came into its own.
What quality defines your brand and sets it apart from others?
The brand started small as most businesses do. In as much as our resources are limited in Nigeria, we strive to deliver world class education, leaving no stone unturned. Our goal is to produce the best chefs in Africa, by motivating our students to cross boundaries of traditional methods, and explore modern and creative procedures to cuisine as a whole.
What is your philosophy about cooking?
My philosophy is to always have fun with it.
What impact do events like the GTB Food and Drink Fair and the Lagos Food and Beverage Fair have on the food industry?
Such fairs create a platform for small businesses that wouldn’t otherwise get such recognition. It helps to shine light on the businesses that are doing well in the food industry.
As a business owner in Nigeria, what challenges do you face besides unstable power supply?
There is a plethora of challenges faced by a business owner, like me in Nigeria. The lack of constant power supply topping the list, comes with the high cost of maintaining an alternative source of power supply. In addition, the regular increase in the price of food items, the high taxes and duties that must be paid, high interest rates on bank loans, just to mention a few are some of the other challenges we business owners are currently facing in Nigeria.
How do you keep informed of latest trends in the food industry and what advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
My advice to aspiring chefs will be to follow your dreams… keep believing in yourself… and don’t stop cooking. With passion and hard work comes success.
Are there any plans to expand Red Dish Chronicles beyond Lagos and Abuja?
For a business to keep growing, there must always be an effectual plan to expand, so yes, we do have plans to expand beyond Lagos and Abuja, God willing.
March 25, 2021