In that instant it really hit me that I didn’t have to say too much; it was glaring and evident that the passion and love for food runs deep and it is essentially a part of me like my eyes, hands and feet.
First off pause the ipod in your head playing that Lady Gaga track.
The first Saturday in September had me doing fine dinner service for six people. It was one of those rare opportunities for me here back home in Lagos, Nigeria to walk out of La Pointe I supermarket with a ten thousand naira South African fillet of beef and make something great out of it. After the beef got it’s hot sear on all sides in butter, garlic and thyme and some olive oil. The beef when I pulled it out of the oven seemed to emerge in some royal glory. In my head trumpets sounded and chariots rode past. Even better, I cut into the meat to slice… it was nice and pink in the center and cooked perfectly. I broke into my happy dance (a unique blend of azonto, salsa and kwatio moves). In that second my friend and photographer Demilade Olubanwo looked at me and said,
“Dude you’re such a food nerd”
In that instant it really hit me that I didn’t have to say too much it was glaring and evident that the passion and love for food runs deep and it essentially a part of me like my eyes, hands and feet.
When I was 10 years old I remember one night after eating the egg stew our help at home made I lost sleep because I couldn’t wait to try my own version. Oh yes I was a fat kid growing up… not because the breeze in Benin city was entering my pores. Simple chop chop! My mother always made the best fried-rice and her chicken was the best part of growing up. She also ran a small fast food joint that was always on point with the food!
Going on holidays to spend time with my cousins in Lagos did not help with my budding romance with food. Why? Because my aunt Rosalind was and still is relentless cook who is nothing short of amazing. So from excessive cereal in the morning to pizza for afternoon snacks or pasta salad, potato croquets, fish palm oil stew, endless array of chocolate (each kid got what they liked in cartons) bread and butter pudding, crème caramel, cheesecakes, carrot cakes and too much I cannot type. So here my curiosity about “Oyinbo Food” came alive as well.
So the above didn’t help. It didn’t help my waist-line. Infact, all round line… I was this well “rounded” child with a cheerful disposition to life. However what the real problem was that I was the only child who would hang around the kitchen to watch the whole process of whatever dish that was being made from start to finish and try my own “version” and sometimes host a cook show to whoever was interested to listen because I was an avid watcher of BBC food(still am just add the food network that way awesome-er) my real hunger was know how to cook.
Fast forward to University… I wasn’t totally happy. I was this teenager who was overweight but never felt he had it in him to do anything about it. Till I saw an aunt who went from pumba to timon! 3 months after speaking with her and finding out her plan. I went from 98kilos to 76kilos. And being me, that was like 50 kilos to the eyes of family and friends. I was so skinny some people thought I contracted a terminal disease and had moments to live. But for the first time in my life I felt great about how I looked and felt like I really did something for myself and achieved.
Fast forward to March 2011
On the 10th I was on a flight to study at Le Cordon Bleu and live in Paris for a year… My bad affection for cake and all the little joys in life like ice-cream factory had taken me back to “not-so-light-Gbubemi but I was “ok”
During Paris, the French bug bit me and I was grateful for that. The bug being “eat all the baguette and butter you want but RUN and WALK everywhere” so my tri-Weekly runs and swimming kept the weight at bay. Problem raised its ugly head when I came back home and realized how much I had missed mummy’s jollof and mama put stew.
As I type this, my body is in turmoil and agony from the regime that I have signed allegiance to. Running a few kilometers three times a week and working out daily. I have to admit to myself no matter how hard I try… food is wired in my genetics, cooking or talking food is the one time I feel powerful and important; food is life, food brings people together and I just know it’s what my hands do best
However after a chat with myself I decided to put in the work to use food for energy to get that “Ryan Gosling-Tyrese” body as opposed to letting it sit and hang and form a new HQ for Dunlop.
I love what I do. The feeling I get when I see the smiles on people’s faces when they eat what I made is priceless. I feel like I’ve contributed to world peace or something.
I’m this passionate about what I do. Passion gets me through days when my physical body fails me. Passion makes realize I have a purpose. Passion for food gives me fulfillment.
At the end of the day this romance isn’t so bad after all. Best thing since Jesus that happened to me.
Gbubemi Fregene, popularly known as Chef Fregz, is a part of what can be called ”the new-age Nigerian youth” who are carving out niches for themselves, as creatives, outside of the regular professional career paths. As a Chef, Gbubemi’s passion is to merge a creativity that is fresh and unbridled with elements of the budding youth culture and the world class training he received at Le Cordon Bleu in order to make every meal a truly unique culinary experience. He has catered for several events from breakfast meetings to offshore dinners, from middle class to top class people and is gaining a growing reputation in its industry as a young chef with something new and different. He has an online growing presence via his private blog, twitter, facebook and strong publicity via his column on the Bella Naija blog where he writes about food.
30 Days 30 Voices series is an opportunity for young Nigerians to share their stories and experiences with other young Nigerians, within our borders and beyond, to inspire and motivate them.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.