Opinions & Features December 14, 2020 at 11:00 am

Gabi Odebode, the chef introducing African food culture to Americans one meal at a time

Ama Nunoo December 14, 2020 at 11:00 am

December 14, 2020 at 11:00 am | Opinions & Features

Afromeals' purpose is to introduce people to the African and African inspired food culture Photo: Gabi Odebode

The world is now a global village and the invention of the internet has facilitated this process. However, there are people out there who have never tasted African meals or even heard of them. Gabi Asiedua Odebode is on a mission to change that with Afromeals, which is introducing people to the African and African inspired food culture one meal at a time.

The Ohio based chef caters to events and also recently found a way to reduce the cooking time for most African and Caribbean inspired meals by experimenting with seasonings and spices. Odebode put her findings in her maiden recipe book released in March 2019, ‘Afromeals 30 minutes meals and more.’

Speaking to Face2Face Africa, she said, “Many Africans especially the millennials, complain about the amount of time spent in the kitchen to African meals. So, we started out by creating recipes and products to make cooking easy and simple without it being a tedious task.”

After doing research on the top 10 ethnic foods in the world, no African and Caribbean meal made it to the list, she said. She also encountered people from other backgrounds who are not Africans and are curious about African and African inspired meals. This triggered Odebode to add cooking classes to her services.

“I have come across many people who have never heard of African food and the only one that they might have encountered at one point is either Ethiopian or Moroccan food and that is about it.

“For this reason, I decided to fill this gap by introducing other cultures, or ethnic groups to our food and to my surprise they loved it.

“My business model not only focused on making cooking easy for African millennials but also introducing other cultures to the African food culture,” she told F2FA.

Odebode was born in Ghana and immigrated to the United States with her sister when she was nine. She holds a bachelor’s in biological sciences with a minor in Psychology and a master’s in biology with a concentration in Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, and Immunology.

She met her husband Iyanu Odebode, who was born and raised in Nigeria during her master’s program and now they have three amazing children.

Afromeals started off as Thavma Pastries in October 2014 when Odebode was heavily pregnant. At the time, she craved puff puff, the traditional African snack also known as Bofrot but could not find any so she decided to make them herself.

A guest at their home at the time who is not African tried the snack and ever since that day, it became the talk of the town. She now makes her own puff puff mix that retails in different African and international stores.

In 2015, with the sole intent of introducing Africa’s food culture in America, Afromeals was born. “We want to be what Rockefeller was to the oil industry in the African food business by changing the landscape of the African food space through innovations, research development, and customer service.

“We are introducing the African delicacy in such a way that is dynamic by deliberately making the food making process less intimidating.”

The Afromeals cooking classes are always booked, with 95% of the participants being Caucasians. Many also want to learn how to cook the meals from someone who knows the culture and the history behind the food.

The class is now virtual due to COVID-19. What Odebode loves about her job is the fact that she is imparting the African culture to others through food.

“I realized after an encounter with a student and her family who came in to learn how to make authentic Ghanaian meals for her birthday was that what we are doing is more than teaching people to cook, but we are also making memories and giving people a cultural experience right in here in America.

“Many Americans have come to love African and Caribbean foods and keep coming back for it because of the awareness we are bringing to our food.”

In June 2020, Afromeals launched its own spice blends now retailed in Jungle Jims in Fairfield Ohio, in Findlay’s Market and will be stocked in Whole Foods Markets. Alternatively, purchases could be made via its website.

Odebode is at the moment planning to start a foundation to feed the homeless.

“I love feeding people especially those who have nothing to eat. I have done several events where we have cooked and fed the homeless in our community.

“At some point, I plan to start a foundation where we can feed homeless people regularly and teach children from the foster care system and families in low-income communities how to cook, providing them with all the necessary ingredients for free,” she told F2FA.

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