My name is Alex Oke, a bi-national Nigerian/Russian chef. I’m based in Lagos and I’m passionate about bread, pastry and confections. I trained in both the culinary and pastry arts (classical/contemporary French cuisine) at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA) in Vancouver, Canada from January-December, 2014. Whilst at PICA, I staged at the Fairmont Vancouver, Beta 5 and Thomas Haas. I also worked for a period at Lear Faye in East Vancouver before returning to Nigeria as pastry chef at Tarragon Restaurant, and chef instructor at the Culinary Academy in Ikoyi, Lagos.
I earned an undergraduate honors degree in Management in the USA (2006), and a graduate degree with distinction in International Marketing Management (2012) in the UK prior to finding my calling in the culinary/pastry arts. I worked professionally as an FMCG marketing manager and a digital marketing/branding specialist during that time. I went on to volunteer at ASSAF (Aid Organisation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) in Tel Aviv, Israel (2013) before embarking on my culinary career.
I’m currently chef owner at XO Boutique Bakery on Victoria Island in Lagos. We feature traditional French and new world breads, viennoiserie, and pastries with a modern flair. I enjoy hosting dinner events with other Lagos based chefs and culture collectives, and consulting on cafe, bistro and restaurant menus around the city. I’ve given masterclass demos at prominent food festivals in Lagos, including the GTBank Food & Drink Fair, Fiesta of Flavours and Fitfam Fest. I’m also a contributor to BellaNaija Cuisine, Smooth 98.1FM, and have been featured in ThisDay Style, Sunday Punch, and Discovery for Men Magazine.
I find inspiration from local and seasonal produce, and try to live and work within the farm to table philosophy. The truth is I’m still finding my voice with regard to food. As a young chef staying true to my training, I identify as a traditionalist with regard to French pastry. This is evolving however, and I hope to do more with local West African and Nigerian bread, pastry and confections. I also hope to explore the Russian aspect of my culinary heritage in 2017, and perhaps find a way to create a new fusion.
I’m very excited at what young African chefs are doing with adapting and evolving local cuisine. African gastronomy is developing, and I believe in the new generation’s ability to find inspiration from our newly digitally-connected continent. I’m very proud to be a part of an African culinary tradition that includes the likes of Pierre Thiam. Conversely, I draw inspiration from my idols Antonio Bachour and Alexander Kislitsyn. I continue to learn from them, and look forward to the evolution of Nigerian and African cuisine through creating knowledge-sharing spaces i.e. food festivals, chef guilds, organisations and symposia etc. It takes a certain level of trust to create these spaces, but I believe we already see momentum in that direction.