Haven’t heard of The Vegan Nigerian yet? Well, you’re in luck because we got the scoop on the lovely chef, travel enthusiast, and blogger!
Tomi Makanjuola currently lives in London where she creates plant-based dishes inspired by her Nigerian culture and awesome food-related content on all her social media platforms. She’s also a YouTuber who does a great job at making veganism visible, intriguing, and cultural.
Keep reading to learn more about this dynamic and empowering content creator!
1. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria.
2. What were your favorite foods growing up?
I grew up predominantly on home-cooked Nigerian meals and some of my favourites included jollof rice, plantain cooked in any form. I also loved many of our traditional snacks such as puff puff, coconut candy, and chin chin.
3. How did your platform begin?
The Vegan Nigerian started as a blog in February 2013, with the aim of sharing recipes and lifestyle content from the lens of my cultural heritage. I wanted people in my close circle and community to see how accessible the plant-based lifestyle could be. My work with The Vegan Nigerian evolved very organically and the more I shared my food content online, the more opportunities appeared. It started with doing live cookery demonstrations at vegan food festivals, which eventually led to catering and coaching. I also hosted in-person events such as supper clubs and cookery classes. Then in 2018 I published the Plantain Cookbook to showcase the versatility of the ingredient. The platform continues to be a place where anyone and everyone can come and discover what vegan Nigerian food is all about.
4. What do you do outside of your personal and professional work?
Outside of work, I read and write a lot - I actually consider literature to be my first creative love. I've also gotten into gardening over the last few months - particularly growing my own food - and I find so much joy in that! I'm somewhat of a cinephile, so when I want to truly unwind you'll find me immersing myself in movies of all genres.
5. What's your vegan story?
I initially went vegan for health reasons. At the age of 20, I was living in France, completing a university internship, and I found that my energy levels were at an all-time low. I made the connection between that and the amount of processed foods and animal products in my diet. After a week of cutting out all animal products, I felt lighter and more energised. At the same time, I had started to gain an interest in animal rights. After carrying out a bit more research into the vegan lifestyle (through reading books and watching documentaries), I was fully convinced that I was on the right path and made the switch. At first the decision felt overwhelming as I pondered how I would adapt my meals and navigate social situations, but this soon gave way to excitement as I began to experiment with new ingredients and recipes, particularly when it came to adapting my much-loved Nigerian meals.
6. What's your best advice for helping someone go vegan?
I would say to carry out as much research into the lifestyle as you can, and really internalise the various benefits - not only for your health but for the environment, the animals, and other people. I would also encourage them to get cooking. Experiment with various vegan recipes and be open to trying out meat and dairy substitutes. There is plenty of inspiration to be found online. You may even be able to find others in your community who have successfully mastered plant-based versions of the dishes you know and love.
7. How did your family respond when they found out you were vegan?
Some family [members] were definitely skeptical at the start, particularly questioning the type of food I would eat and whether I would get all the nutrients that I need to be healthy. Seven plus years of seeing me thrive on this lifestyle has encouraged them to be more open to it. It's led to fruitful conversations and in some cases, little lifestyle changes here and there, such as ditching dairy and swapping to plant-based milks, spreads, etc.
8. Who inspires you?
There are too many people to mention, but the one thing they all have in common is a commitment to making the world a better place by sharing their gifts and talents with others. When I see someone in their element, living out their purpose, regardless of popularity and external validation, I'm immensely inspired.
9. Why is community important when it comes to Afro-Veganism?
Community makes us feel less alone. When we see others living out this lifestyle, it normalises it and makes it feel less alien. Mainstream veganism (in the West) has so often painted one image of what it means to be a vegan - an image that Black people may not necessarily connect to. Having an Afro-Vegan community disrupts that narrative, allowing us to effectively get the message of health, wellness, and compassion out to those who may be otherwise disengaged.
Such an inspiration!! Don’t stop here to read up on Tomi, check her out on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @vegannigerian and on YouTube as The Vegan Nigerian. Her content was made to leave you motivated and salivated so be sure to try out her fabulous recipes on her blog www.vegannigerian.com!