NOTE: The dinner, originally scheduled for Jan. 11, has been postponed to Jan. 18.

Tunde Wey knows that few people have tasted Nigerian food. That’s to his advantage as he travels around America serving his native cuisine with his Lagos pop-up dinners.

“I’m probably the worst Nigerian cook that I know,” he said, “but the best Nigerian cook that any of my diners are ever going to experience.”

Back in October, he kicked off his “2014 tour” of eight cities in New Orleans, with two nights of raunchy Nigerian pop music and spicy, exotic food like melon seed stew, jollof rice or goat pepper soup.

On Jan. 11, Wey is back for a return engagement with two pop-up dinners at Carrollton Market.

Wey, 31, left Nigeria for Detroit when he was 16. In that city, he co-founded the restaurant Revolver and created the pop-up series Goldfinch American.

With the Lagos dinner series, his original plan was to take his native food on the road and then open a Nigerian restaurant in Detroit.

Plans change. Wey still wants a restaurant, but it could be elsewhere: D.C., New York, even New Orleans if someone here wants to help him.

At first, the Lagos pop-ups were just about making food and sharing flavors that for Wey were familiar. But it became more profound.

“I’m realizing the different layers and how important this is,” he said. “A huge part of what I’m doing is staying connected to my traditions, my heritage, my family. My actual family.”

Most of that family still lives in Nigeria. Wey calls his parents to talk about cooking. He fielded concerns from an aunt, who he’d barely spoken to since emigrating, about a picture on the Lagos website of men praying before a mosque.

“She was worried just generally because of what going on in the world, particularly in Nigeria with Boko Haram,” he said.
Quickly, the conversation switched from her political concerns to eating.

“I’m sharing the food that she likes with people she doesn’t know,” Wey said. “I want to be at the forefront of sharing this before some handsome, white, tattooed chef makes it the next big thing.”

The eight-dish Lagos pop-up will be served family style. Tickets are $55 plus drinks. Seating are at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. For more details or to buy tickets, see www.fromlagos.com.

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by Todd A. Price

The Times Picayune - NOLA.com