Class of 2022

Michael Adé Elégbèdé

Hospitality Pioneers

32 / Lagos, Nigeria

The Nigerian chef restoring pride to indigenous ingredients and dishes

Nigeria is significantly the most populous country in Africa, yet its food remains largely unknown on the global stage. Third-generation chef Michael Elégbèdé is aiming to change that through his own Ìtàn Test Kitchen in Lagos and as co-founder of Abòri, a local collective movement aiming to facilitate sustainable growth in Nigeria's food system. Elégbèdé move to the US when he was 13 and began his cooking career as a teenager in a family-run restaurant in Chicago. After graduating from college, he went to work at globally renowned restaurants including The French Laundry and Eleven Madison Park (both in the ‘Best of the Best’ category of restaurants which have reached the top spot on the 50 Best list), where he experienced the power of storytelling through food. 

Passionate about raising the representation of the African continent in the culinary sphere, Michael returned to the country of his birth in 2016 to explore Nigeria’s varied regions, researching indigenous ingredients and learning more about its richly diverse cultures. He opened Ìtàn as a space for him and his young team to explore recipes utilising local ingredients and, ultimately, to create fresh narratives and remarkable dining experiences around Nigerian cuisine. At the same time, he seeks to tell the stories of the people and cultures that keep local food traditions alive. While it’s not a restaurant as such, the space houses a chef’s table for private dinners and events, and aims to become a hub for Nigerian and African chefs to experiment and grow.
"Nigerian cuisine has often been under-appreciated and looked down upon. However, seeing stories of our culture narrated through food experiences is changing how people see and appreciate our indigenous food. Appreciation leads to preservation; preservation leads to sustainability… creating a better environment to broaden the reality of biodiversity. The mentality before was that ingredients brought in from other parts of the world are better than what we can grow locally. This mentally is changing, and I believe Ìtàn is a participant in that change.” – Michael Adé Elégbèdé

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