Women

Meet Nigerian-born Adejoké Bakare, UK’s 1st Black female Michelin-starred chef and 2nd in the world

Adejoké Bakare, owner and head chef of Chishuru, became the first Black woman to be awarded a Michelin star in the UK this month. She told The Guardian that her achievement felt “quite surreal.”

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” she said on February 6, a day after she was honored. “Until this morning I was just focused on enjoying the accolade itself, which I’m hugely honored by. But seeing reactions on social media today, I’m starting to feel a weight of responsibility on my shoulders too; it’s lovely.”

The chief inspector at Michelin in the UK said Bakare’s “style is unique and the restaurant is a wonderful reflection of her personality and her cooking – it is fun, full of life, generous and hugely enjoyable”.

Bakare grew up in Kaduna in northern Nigeria with a Yoruba mother and an Igbo father. She revealed that around the age of eleven, she started gathering cookbooks and that’s when she discovered her love for food and cooking. She was advised, meanwhile, to follow more traditional career routes, and she went on to study biological sciences at a university in Kaduna.

During that time, she mentioned that her culinary experience consisted of manning a fish and chip cart while studying. Bakare relocated to the UK and worked in many sectors, including care and property management.

She organized a supper club in 2017 with the goal of realizing her lifelong dream of becoming a restaurant owner. She then won a competition at Brixton Village to launch a three-month pop-up restaurant that would later become Chishuru.

Since it began as a pop-up in 2020, the restaurant moved to numerous locations in London until settling in Fitzrovia in September 2023. Her restaurant takes pleasure in serving West African food influenced by her Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa heritage. Her dishes include sinasir (fermented rice cake), moi moi (bean cake) and ekoki (corn cake), according to the Guardian.

Bakare remarked: “We’re [at] the forefront of west African food and there’s still much more to do so we focus on that … and just build and grow that way. In many ways being an independent restaurateur and chef is incredibly liberating. We make our own rules, we answer to no one, we do our own thing. As a black female chef I’m not totally sure I could have done it any other way.”

Chishuru was among 18 new restaurants to receive a Michelin star this month. Given that the majority of the honorees were white men, Bakare said she felt a little strange during the ceremony. Nonetheless, she hopes things will improve because of the passion she has witnessed among young women in the field.

When asked if the industry needs to be more diversified, Bakare responded, “Absolutely. Especially in London, where there’s so [much] food, there’s so many people, you can eat the world if you want to, if you know where to look. I think more publications, more food writers, should go out more and explore all of this.”

Bakare is now not only the first Black woman to be awarded a Michelin star in the UK but also the second Black woman Michelin-starred chef in the world. American chef Mariya Moore-Russell became the first Black woman to be awarded a Michelin star in September 2019.

Dollita Okine

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