To support and promote the diversity and inclusion initiatives at Citrix in Raleigh, NC, Executive Chef/General Manager Joseph Dowe and his team at Dillon’s Café enjoy featuring cuisine from a different country each month.
The Comfort station first offers a selection of savory dishes, and then an authentic sweet treat from the same country is offered on Diversity Snack Wednesday the following week.
To feature Nigeria, Joseph planned an ambitious menu in close collaboration with Pizza Oven Station Cook Solomon Olaniyan, who is Nigerian and who helped ensure the authenticity of each dish on the expansive menu of four entrées, four sides, and a sampler platter.
Nigerian cuisine is referred to as a “swallowable” meal, meaning ingredients simmer together in a flavorful liquid base for so long they don’t require much chewing. Joseph and Solomon’s Nigerian-style chicken stew featured tomatoes, bell peppers, habanero chilis, onions, herbs, and spices. The ingredients were ground (to release liquid) and then reduced (to intensify flavor). Working with Solomon, Joseph demonstrated how to use a stew of okra, called obe ila, as a base with layers of other “soups” placed on top.
Buka beef in a fried pepper stew featured a base of ground tomatoes, peppers, onions, and Scotch bonnet peppers (collectively called obe ata) cooked in oil, then layered with cooked meats, dried crayfish, and additional vegetables. Peeled hard-boiled eggs are added last to simmer in the flavorful liquid. Solomon and Joseph also prepared a beef stew with plantains plus local okra flavored with toasted mustard seed, cumin, and coriander.
One Citrix employee from Nigeria stopped in his tracks to call home and tell his family what he was eating for lunch!
Side dishes included jollof rice with tomatoes; lentils; dun dun (yam fries); and asaro porridge (yams mashed with seafood, pepper, chopped onion, and stock). Digital signage promoting the menu was displayed in all five break rooms and in the café for two weeks before the specials ran. Solomon’s winning personality and close ties to the food helped drum up interest among guests who might have been on the fence. Some needed no encouragement, though: One Citrix employee from Nigeria stopped in his tracks to call home and tell his family what he was eating for lunch!
The special menu proved to be a huge success, and raked in 30 percent of the menu sales for the day. When Diversity Snack Wednesday rolled around the following week, the team offered a Nigerian-style puff-puff, a traditional African snack similar to a donut hole. As the Pinktober Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiative was also happening, the team rolled the puff-puffs in pink powdered sugar.
Many of the Bon Appétit cooks at Citrix are familiar with Latin American preparations that use similar ingredients, so they enjoyed tasting the dishes — the jollof rice in particular, which is served on the wetter side — and learning about Nigerian-specific treatments of these foods. And Solomon was excited to introduce his colleagues to the cuisine with which he was so familiar, but that they were experiencing for the first time.
Submitted by William Allen, Catering Director