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Published on July 22nd, 2016 | from CAMH

Thought for Food Q&A: Chef Deji Oduwole

CAMH, in partnership with University in the Community, hosted a weekly education session for clients entitled Thought for Food. The sessions gave clients at CAMH a chance to learn first-hand cooking tips and techniques from Ontario chefs in our Activities of Daily Living Kitchen.

We had a chance to chat with former CFL player and current Chef Deji Oduwole of The Odu Group, who shared his time and talent with clients as he showed them how to make shakshouka – a savoury North African dish. Here’s what he had to say:

1. What led you to volunteer to teach clients at CAMH? What do you hope people get from the sessions you lead?
I truly love to teach! When Julianna sent a post for chefs to teach at CAMH I knew right away I would like to be involved. I hope that everybody has fun when I teach and that they are able to feel the same love for the food as I do.

2. What was it like to be a professional athlete?
Yes during some games I would feel extremely anxious or nervous, I have always equated those feelings with the same feelings as fear. In my opinion the only way to combat those feelings are to use them as fuel as opposed to allowing them to deter you from your ultimate goal. One way we always approached different situations in football was to always feel as if we were over prepared so that nothing could throw us off.

3. There is a link between Brain Injury and mental health. During your pro career, was this a concern players thought about?
We always knew about concussions but it was never anyone’s main concern. We were always likely to brush it off and to keep on playing. The more I hear about the long term ramifications of concussions or “concussion-like situations” – it frightens me. Playing for 18 years, the amount of times I’ve hit my head or seen “stars” is innumerable. However, it is the fear of all these different situations that propels me to do the most when I am of sound mind and body.

Deji24. Let’s pivot to your current career as a chef – how did that come about? What has helped you in your transition?
I’ve always wanted to become a chef, those close to me always knew my direction. The transition was surprisingly easy and swift. With football there’s always been a hierarchical system. Going down from the owner, President, GM, Coach and so on and so forth. That is basically the same as the kitchen, you have your owner, Executive Chef, Executive Sous Chef and so on. Knowing that there is structure is something that I like, and knowing that I can shake up the structures is something that I love!

5. As a former athlete, nutrition is absolutely important. How much of that informs your own cooking philosophy?
To be completely honest it doesn’t play a part in my cooking really. From a nutritional stand point the only points I truly believe in/preach is portion control. You can enjoy some of the richest and fattiest foods, you just need to know that you can’t have pounds and pounds of them.

6. You were also featured on the Food Network show Beat Bobby Flay, and made it to the main stage to square off against a well-known celebrity chef. How do you prepare for something like that? In general, where do you get inspiration?
You can’t necessarily prepare for something like that you just have to trust in your abilities and trusts in the chefs you’ve worked under. Speaking of which I must thank my former executive chef Brooke McDougal from ByMark restaurant. I had to steal one of the components he taught me years earlier on the show! From an artist stand point I don’t believe you can ever draw inspiration from just one thing. It can go from finding inspiration walking down the street to finding inspiration from crunching numbers when costing out a menu. The world is truly my inspiration.

7. Being a chef and running your own business can be incredibly stressful. How do you deal with the stress?
I simply thank God than in able to have something that not only stresses me but also gives me copious amounts of joy. And it doesn’t hurt that I have the most supportive and amazing family that anyone could ever ask for.

8. Do you have any words of wisdom to share for those who are looking to get into the industry?
Know that if you want this career it takes a lot of hard work and you’re going to have to shed a lot tears. But the joy that you get from it is unmatched so if you want it, take it!

Chef Deji would also like to thank his friend, mentor and business colleague Michael Sullivan.

For more information on Chef Deji’s company, visit their website at www.theodugroup.com or like them on Facebook

For more information about Thought for Food, or about University in the Community, please contact Joanne Mackay-Bennett via email at universityinthecommunity@gmail.com

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