Wednesday, 6 April 2016

I never cooked in my life until I started cooking to feed my husband and then kids.




My name is Ganiru Uzo Okeke. I had my secondary school education in Federal Government Girls’ College, Benin City, my A’Levels in Federal Government College, Enugu. I Got my BSc. In Accountancy in University of Nigeria, my MBA course work in the same University.


WORK EXPERIENCE
I did my NYSC in First Bank of Nigeria and worked briefly as a legal secretary. I went into trading but quit in 2013.



HOW DID YOU GET INTERESTED IN COOKING?
I started cooking out of necessity, to feed my husband and then kids. I didn’t know how to cook till I got married, my mother unsuccessfully tried all she could to get me into the kitchen, and I didn’t even like eating food. Incidentally, we had a cook, steward and a bunch of other helpers who didn’t want me in the kitchen either. My Mother would tell me in Igbo that a man’s heart is in his stomach, to which I would reply, “My husband will be anatomically correct, his heart and stomach will be where they are supposed to be.”  
So I got married and my husband loves good food and has a very discerning palate, but as God will have it, he was patient with me. From this necessity, came interest. I became so interested in cooking, it became a passion. I was always in charge of or assisting in the kitchen during parties, weddings, burials, in fast food restaurants etc. that I am a part of. All these demystified cooking and retrained my palate. Now I am very passionate about cooking and food generally.


WHAT KIND OF THINGS CAN YOU COOK?
I don’t believe there is anything anybody can’t cook, with a good recipe and detailed set of instructions, a beautiful dish will surely emerge.


YOU RELEASED A BOOK ON COOKING. THE PRETEND CHEF. I FOUND THAT TITLE INTRIGUING. WHY DID YOU SETTLE FOR SUCH A TITLE?
My kids, both male and female, and I watch cooking shows on television so much that sometimes when we are in the kitchen, we pretend we are in one of the shows and have an exciting time. So basically anybody can pretend to be a chef in their own kitchen and have a pleasurable time.

HOW HAS THE RECEPTION FOR THE BOOK BEEN LIKE?
The book has been well received. There are not many indigenous cookbooks in the market and with all the talk about skill acquisition, skill training etc., it came at the right time. It is a blend of both foreign and Nigerian food. It’s in some shops, hotels and markets now. We are in talks with people both private and public.


CONSIDERING THAT YOU VEERED INTO COOKING, WOULD YOU HAVE LOVED TO HAVE STUDIED CATERING IN SCHOOL?
No. My first love is medicine. I get overwhelmed by structure, most things that are structured will floor me. So I love what am doing now, the way am doing it. I get my energy from my readers and I respond accordingly.


A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THAT COOKING IS CHALLENGING. HOW TRUE IS THAT?
I was definitely one of those people. My younger self would almost have had palpitations when asked to go and cook up something.

Cooking is so easy, it’s fun, it’s therapeutic, and it’s an adventure. In cooking you give pleasure and experience joy. It’s as easy as –Taste your food as you cook—my husband taught me that.

WHAT IS THE NEXT LEVEL FOR YOU AS FAR AS COOKING IS INVOLVED?
I do a lot of planning, both long and short term but leave a lot of room for flexibility. Funnily enough, none of this was really planned. They were just ideas I bounced around some years back but totally forgot. In 2014, I stumbled into writing the book which took one year of intensive, gruelling research and work to finish. Since then other areas have opened up, so I have my dreams but I am enjoying the ride.

DOES IT COST SO MUCH TO PREPARE A GOOD MEAL?
Good food doesn’t have to be expensive, you only need to be creative with your ingredients and balance your flavours well. You don’t have to include every part of the cow and every manner of seafood in your pot of soup. I pride myself in my use of left-overs to make complete and delicious dishes. Try Egusi jollof rice, native stir fried yam etc.
WITH THE FAD FOR HEALTHY FOOD, WHICH KINDS OF FOOD ARE CONSIDERED UNHEALTHY?
I am not really into fads to be honest. My point of reference is always my grandmother, she basically ate our indigenous Nigerian food, fresh and organic till she died at 95 years. What I try to do is eat as much of our local produce as possible leaving processed food as treats. You can slice your own bacon from pork belly etc. Eat a balanced diet, eat indigenous, and eat in moderation.

A LOT OF MEN THINK THAT COOKING SHOULD BE LEFT TO THE WOMEN. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?

Definite No. In my house, once we are in the kitchen and I say, “all hands on deck”, each person knows which area to attend to, both boys and girls.

My husband cooks even better than me, he forms recipes and they are delicious. When am pregnant and can’t stand the smell of certain dishes, he manages the kitchen to an extent. My boys have been living on their own since they were 17 and 18 years and they cook their own meals comfortably. There is also a high percentage of professional male chefs.


WHAT COOKING TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR OUR READERS?
In this our fast paced society, especially for working mothers, instead of spending a fortune on unhealthy and sometimes unsafe take-out, or relying on noodles and bread, make out time once in a while to prepare some ingredients for storage. This will cut cooking time to a fraction of the normal time.


IF PEOPLE WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT COOKING FROM YOU, WHERE DO THEY GO TO?
They should make straight to my blog, www.thepretendchef.com. It is a deep well of knowledge where I take the reader by the hand and lead them through the cooking of the dishes. There are also recipes of some of our local dishes that are delicious and healthy, but are going into extinction. A lot of homes have empty menus now, go there for variety in your menu.


How supportive have your family been in this enterprise of yours?
They have been wonderful. Who doesn’t like good food, they are enjoying the dishes. Though when am perfecting a recipe, they have to be my first set of testers. My husband has been tremendous, encouraging, giving feedback, and other backings.
 

5 comments:

Amaka Olisanekwu said...

Fantastic. Excellent achievement on pursuing and living your dream. I could almost taste some of the food that you post the pictures. They look so mouth wateringly good. May this be the beginning of great things to come. Blessings!

Anonymous said...

I've been to her blog, it's highly informative and makes cooking seem easy.

Anonymous said...

Went to the blog. It is highly informative and makes cooking seem easy

Soma said...

Well done Ganiru.

Angel Okeke said...

This was absolutely lovely to read. So proud of you!