Getting to Know You: Kenny Olaniyi
A series of Q&As with members of the vibrant Irish international community to share their cultural heritage, food memories and stories. Kenny Olaniyi is co-host of the podcast Pints of Malt, which is about growing up Black African in Ireland. He is part of Slight Motif, an online platform that aims to promote urban culture in Ireland, and the media & entertainment coordinator for Black and Irish, an organisation that highlights and celebrates Black and Irish identities and stories.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Ibadan in Nigeria, and moved to Ireland when I was around four years old and have lived in Dublin most of my life. I have two younger sisters. My mum is a chef and baker so food was a huge thing in our house, as with most Nigerian homes to be honest.
My sisters and I would be the first to try all our mum's cooking experiments so I loved it. One of the best things my mum bakes is a coconut flavoured cake. It's nothing extravagant but just tastes amazing and is a signature of hers. I also really love her plain flour scones – some butter and tea and you're good to go!
A big tradition and memory from when I was young was any sort of holiday/birthday. We'd always spend it with my cousins and just stuff our face with food. Chicken, jollof rice, a great roast with bottle of Pure Heaven, a non-alcoholic wine you can buy in African shops that is similar to [the sparkling fruit juice] Shloer.
Do you cook?
Yes, I do cook. I wouldn't say I'm great, but I know my way around the kitchen, sort of. I learnt from my mum of course. She made a point to ensure I was able to make the basics at least. As my sisters and I got older, she began to push us to cook more. My mum is the best cook in the world, hands down. So much so, I'm quite fussy with what and where I eat when I'm not home.
Favourite dish and food memory? My favourite dish is probably jollof rice and plantain. You really cannot go wrong with it. Jollof rice is a spiced dish, simmered in reduced tomatoes, onions, peppers, chicken stock and different seasonings such as chilli flakes, maggi, and pepper. Plantain looks like a really big banana. Unlike other fruits, plantain is eaten like a vegetable so it's usually cooked (fried) when eaten with jollof rice.
One of my favourite food memories is actually from quite recent, during lockdown. My sisters and I did our very own Come Dine With Me with my mum as the judge. I didn't win but I had a lot of fun and it was great to be able to sit together for a couple of evenings and spend quality time together over good food.
Most traumatising food experience was probably when I choked on a Chinese (my usual order of shredded chilli chicken and egg fried rice). That was not fun!
Where do you shop?
I shop everywhere really. Probably mostly Tesco. I also shop in African shops as some stuff I just can't get anywhere else like Agege bread (soft bread) and plantain chips!
Are you excited about the cuisines of other cultures? I love trying new cuisines. I'll admit I don't do it as much as I should, but I tried Indian for the first time a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Also I had sushi for the first time a while back, and I'll be honest I'm not a fan. I don't really like cold food but I'd be willing to give it another go as I did like the piece of salmon I tried.
I have a few ingredients that I can't deal with, including ketchup, mushrooms and oysters. Can you comment on current, racially charged events in Ireland? It's really disheartening to see the racist charged events that have gone on in Ireland. I think the majority of people embrace different cultures which includes their food and I think remembering this is important. A lot needs to be done. Action needs to be taken by individuals, groups, families, companies, and the government to enact change in society. I hope to see a better Ireland where we can all embrace each other's differences.