Home Life Style Self-taught chef behind West African restaurant Chishuru – who became first black woman to win a Michelin star in the UK – studied to be a biologist before a supper club put her on the path to making culinary history

Self-taught chef behind West African restaurant Chishuru – who became first black woman to win a Michelin star in the UK – studied to be a biologist before a supper club put her on the path to making culinary history

by Merry
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Adejoké Bakare (pictured), 51, made history by becoming the first black woman in the UK to receive a prestigious Michelin star, but a restaurant had never been part of her plan (pictured: Adejoké celebrates in Instagram)

She made history last month by becoming the first black woman in the UK to win a Michelin star, but the owner of West African-inspired Chishuru, currently the city’s most popular table, was never supposed to be a restaurateur.

Nigerian chef Adejoké Bakare, 51, founder of the Westminster-based restaurant that raves about food critics, received the prestigious award for dishes such as roast goat belly and ginger fried rice.

The menu is very small compared to some of London’s luxury restaurants, with a four-course lunch costing £40, while a five-course dinner costs £75 per person.

Although “dazzled” by the culinary body’s recognition, the self-taught chef and her restaurant manager, Matt Paice, have rejected the fine dining label, saying they instead want to appear “homely.”

speaking to Michelin United Kingdom, said: ‘At the core of what we do, we are quite homely. If you see our decor, you will see that we are homely and simply want to welcome you.

Her journey to excellence has been remarkable and unique, dating back to her time as a university student in Nigeria, where she adventurously juggled a fish and chips cart while studying.

Adejoké Bakare (pictured), 51, made history by becoming the first black woman in the UK to receive a prestigious Michelin star, but a restaurant had never been part of her plan (pictured: Adejoké celebrates in Instagram)

Adejoké Bakare (pictured), 51, made history by becoming the first black woman in the UK to receive a prestigious Michelin star, but a restaurant had never been part of her plan (pictured: Adejoké celebrates in Instagram)

Adejoké is the founder and head chef of the exclusive Chishuru restaurant in Westminster, offering a modern take on West African cuisine (pictured: charcoal-grilled guinea fowl breast, caramelised onion and lemon sauce, yaji peanut spice )

Adejoké is the founder and head chef of the exclusive Chishuru restaurant in Westminster, offering a modern take on West African cuisine (pictured: charcoal-grilled guinea fowl breast, caramelised onion and lemon sauce, yaji peanut spice )

Adejoké is the founder and head chef of the exclusive Chishuru restaurant in Westminster, offering a modern take on West African cuisine (pictured: charcoal-grilled guinea fowl breast, caramelised onion and lemon sauce, yaji peanut spice )

The delicious menu can only be enjoyed as two set menus, priced at £40 or £75 per head (pictured: Newlyn cod fillet, fermented tomato sauce, Scotch bonnet, okra)

The delicious menu can only be enjoyed as two set menus, priced at £40 or £75 per head (pictured: Newlyn cod fillet, fermented tomato sauce, Scotch bonnet, okra)

The delicious menu can only be enjoyed as two set menus, priced at £40 or £75 per head (pictured: Newlyn cod fillet, fermented tomato sauce, Scotch bonnet, okra)

Born in Port Harcourt, in the southern region of Rivers State in Nigeria, but raised in the northern region of Kaduna, she studied biology before moving to Britain in the 1990s to pursue a career spanning both healthcare and administration. of properties.

However, her passion for food refused to relent, and the hard-working chef began hosting dinner parties in London, hoping to increase awareness of West African cuisine in the capital.

Word of his charming twist on native dishes soon spread and, in 2019, he won the Brixton Kitchen competition, a competition created to seek out the best in local culinary talent and innovation.

The following year, he opened a three-month pop in south London titled Chishuru, which means “eating in silence” in Hausa, a dialect spoken in northern Nigeria.

The head chef runs Chishuru alongside his manager Matt Paice (pictured left)

The head chef runs Chishuru alongside his manager Matt Paice (pictured left)

The head chef runs Chishuru alongside his manager Matt Paice (pictured left)

Adejoké continues to impress customers with interesting dishes such as fermented rice cake and shiitake mushrooms, charcoal-grilled guinea fowl breast, and whole fried quail with uda and uziza, the latter of which are West African spices (not pictured).

Adejoké continues to impress customers with interesting dishes such as fermented rice cake and shiitake mushrooms, charcoal-grilled guinea fowl breast, and whole fried quail with uda and uziza, the latter of which are West African spices (not pictured).

Adejoké continues to impress customers with interesting dishes such as fermented rice cake and shiitake mushrooms, charcoal-grilled guinea fowl breast, and whole fried quail with uda and uziza, the latter of which are West African spices (not pictured).

The pop-up became a huge success and quickly became a permanent fixture, maintaining the Chisuru name.

Although the Brixton branch closed in 2022, Adejoké headlined several pop-ups across the capital before finally settling in chic Fitzrovia last year, where it remained.

There he has dazzled customers with dishes such as fermented rice cake and shiitake mushrooms, charcoal-grilled guinea fowl breast, and whole fried quail with uda and uziza, the latter of which are West African spices.

For those expecting Nigerian staples, all main dishes are served with rice and plantain.

The chef has rejected the fine dining label and instead wants her restaurant to be “homey” (Pictured: the interior of Chishuru in Fitzrovia)

Although Adejoké’s cooking is largely self-taught, he admits that he might have learned a thing or two from his parents, especially his father, whom he praised as a “great cook.”

speaking to BBC good food In 2022, the chef recalled the inspiration behind her cultured dishes: ‘In Nigeria and West Africa, we use many of the same ingredients and spices, such as selim grains (similar to black pepper) or pumpkin nutmeg. In southern Nigeria, the food is bolder, spicier and uses more chillies.

‘But in the east, people use more native ground peppers, like uziza. The food at home was a mix of these different areas and cultures and, in the same way, in Chishuru I cook my version of traditional Nigerian food.”

Adejoke’s brave embrace of his roots is perhaps aptly seen in a note written on the restaurant’s website. chishuru.com: ‘If you don’t tolerate spices at all, we recommend choosing another restaurant, sorry.’

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