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Shola Olunloyo is Putting Nigerian Food in Culinary Spotlight

You’ve probably never heard of Shola Olunloyo, but he’s risen to recent prominence thanks to a high profile stint at the acclaimed Stone Barns restaurant outside of New York City. Handed the reins from Chef Dan Barber, Olunloyo set about impressing discriminating diners with his take on West African cuisine. Shola’s passion for food was sparked by his simple love of fried plantains as a young boy. But his interest in watching plantains lined up, ripening and decomposing in the sun, was only the seedling of a future fascination with the biology of ingredients and cooking. Shola’s self-professed combination of “curious intellectual curiosity and the pure pleasure of deliciousness” was further developed in his love for suya, the roadside charcoal-grilled meat skewers covered in yaji seasoning. Sneaking palm wine with street suya at boarding school in Nigeria when he was 14 years old sparked his obsession with cooking with fire. And the dish is still a hallmark of his style today.