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Good Info‘I cook from the heart’ – UK’s first black female Michelin-starred chef - Positive...

‘I cook from the heart’ – UK’s first black female Michelin-starred chef – Positive News

Adejoké Bakare, who received the accolade last month, hopes she might inspire a new generation of chefs from diverse backgrounds

From a fish and chip stall in Nigeria Adejoké Bakare (pictured above) has come to be the toast of London’s foodie scene.  

She has been recognised by the world’s most coveted culinary award, becoming the UK’s first black female chef – and only the second black female chef on the planet – to win a Michelin star. 

“It’s still sinking in,” Bakare tells Positive News. “It’s been my lifelong dream to have my own restaurant, and to win a Michelin star is the cherry on the cake. There’s been an immense social media reaction. 20,000 likes for the photo of me in my new Michelin star chef’s jacket – I didn’t see that coming!” 

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Bakare’s restaurant, Chishuru, specialises in modern west African cuisine and culinary styles typical of Nigeria’s Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo ethnic groups. 

“Chishuru brings together all three culinary traditions in one place,” she explains. “For diners who don’t know the food, it’s an adventure. I’m fascinated by the history of our food and what dishes mean. We’ve served a black sauce for fish that is traditionally given as a postpartum meal for new mothers, and a fermented tomato sauce whose development can be tracked with the movement of enslaved peoples from west Africa to Brazil, and back again.” 

Her love of food started in childhood, but Bakare was steered away from the kitchen to study biological sciences at university. Between lectures, she ran a fish and chip cart before moving to the UK in 1999.  

chef michelin

Dishes at Chishuru combine the culinary traditions of Nigeria’s Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo ethnic groups

Jobs in the care industry and property management followed, and it was only in 2017 that self-taught Bakare revived her culinary passion by running supper clubs.  

Two years later, she won a competition to open a three-month pop-up in Brixton, which wowed national newspaper restaurant critics and evolved into a permanent fixture. Bakare and business partner Matt Paice moved Chishuru – a Hausa word that describes the hush that descends on a dining table when food arrives – to its new central London home in Fitzrovia in September last year.  

Singing Bakare’s praises on Twitter, the Michelin Guides described her as ‘the chef of the moment’ while in the guide itself, anonymous inspectors remarked on Chishuru’s “delicious, satisfying and full-flavoured dishes”. 

I’ve always cooked from my heart, and I suppose you could say I have a mission: to present and honour the food of my heritage 

Bakare hopes to inspire a new generation of chefs from minority ethnic backgrounds. She says: “Representation matters so it’s nice to think my star might encourage other black female chefs in the UK. The industry is changing, gradually, but it’s not just about employers – it’s the landlords and critics and investors who need to broaden their horizons beyond the most familiar cuisines.” 

Yet despite the accolades, it is the memories of the home cooking that filled Bakare’s childhood – like the spiced yam and smoked fish broth waiting at the end of the long drive to
visit her grandparents – which light the fire in her belly.   

“I don’t have that exact dish on the menu today, but thinking back to how I felt about that broth inspires me today,” she says. “I’ve always cooked from my heart, and I suppose you could say I have a mission: to present and honour the food of my heritage, the food my grandmother cooked for me.”

Images: Harriet Langford

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