Chef Funmi Joe-Oka, food and beverage manager at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria, is visiting Conestoga’s School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts for a five-week stay where she will participate in Conestoga courses, raise funds for an art project in Ibadan, and share a taste of home for the community and the college’s Nigerian students.
Chef Funmi Joe-Oka works in Conestoga's pastry lab as part of a five-week visit to the college's School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts.
IITA is an award-winning, research-for-development organization, providing solutions to hunger, poverty, and the degradation of natural resources in Africa. Since 1967, IITA has worked with international and national partners to improve livelihoods, enhance food and nutrition security, increase employment, and preserve natural resource integrity.
It was at the IITA where Conestoga professor Andrew Middleton first meet Chef Funmi. Middleton recently spent 15 months at the institute on a professional development sabbatical where he worked as a manager of hospitality and travel services. He actually met Chef Funmi years earlier in 1997 when she was a co-op student at the IITA -- Middleton first managed the institute’s hotel and catering services between 1987 and 1997.
This visit to Canada is her first and was made possible through a grant she received. The trip also reunites her with Philippe Saraiva who spent two weeks at the institute last summer during Middleton’s sabbatical.
As part of her visit, Chef Funmi volunteered at the Oktoberfest pancake breakfast with students -- a fundraiser to support the local food bank, attended the grand opening of the new Waterloo campus, and will host three events for the community to share the flavours of Nigeria. On October 22, she prepared a dinner for the St. Marys Rotary, and another community dinner is planned for October 27 at the United Church in St. Marys. On November 1, she will prepare a special meal for Conestoga’s Nigerian students.
Among the dishes will be jollof rice - a tomato and chilli-based West African dish, and moin moin which consists of beans that are poached in a leaf.
Through her classes at Conestoga, Chef Funmi said she has been excited to learn new pastry techniques that she will use in Ibadan, and has enjoyed observing how the student-run restaurant at the Waterloo campus is managed.
“It has been a pleasure to have Chef Funmi here at Conestoga and in Canada,” said Middleton. “It has been an incredible experience for her as this was the first time she has been out of Africa and, as she says, everything is so different. The expression on Funmi’s face during her first visit to the supermarket, and at the recent celebration of the opening of the Waterloo campus, reminded me of my amazement at the differences when I first went to Nigeria in 1984 as a hospitality student.”
Another special international guest visiting the School this month was Chef Maxime Moise from the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France who worked with students in the culinary labs and shared information about Conestoga’s partnership with the Institut. Conestoga is the only Canadian member of the Alliance, the leading global network of education excellence for culinary arts and the hospitality trades.
Conestoga’s School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts is a leader in culinary and hospitality programming that prepares students for successful careers in Canada’s dynamic tourism industry. Following a $58 million campus expansion at Conestoga’s Waterloo campus, students now have access to state-of-the-art culinary skills labs and a new full-service student-run campus restaurant.