Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Simileoluwa Adebajo helped her mother and grandmother in the kitchen. But she had never even made a pot of jollof rice on her own when she arrived in the Bay Area in 2016 to earn her master’s degree in international and development economics from the University of San Francisco.
While she achieved professional success as a financial analyst, she experienced a deep longing for home. And the only cure was cooking. “I became deathly homesick because I missed my grandma’s food,” she says. She experimented, called home for advice, and ordered chilies and fermented locust bean paste so she could re-create the flavors from her grandmother’s kitchen with California produce.