Abisola Dejonwo-Tokan is the brain behind the first and biggest food festival in Nigeria, Taste Off Lagos. In this interview, she tells TLR, about the 2016 edition of the festival and her plans for the future.
I am a graduate of Business Administration from the University of Kent Canterbury. My love for food drove me to bring different food vendors under one roof for a gastronomical experience for foodies like me. The brand Taste of Lagos Kicked off for the very first time in 2012 at the Freedom Park Onikan and the rest is history. Today, Taste Off is the biggest food festival in Lagos and Nigeria with over 500 hundred Vendors signed up. This year the event will take place on the 2nd and 3rd of October at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
About Taste Off Lagos
A first of its kind in Nigeria, Taste Off Nigeria Events aims to showcase our rich diversity in Nigerian Cuisine and delicacies thereby creating awareness on Nigerian’s rich food culture. This landmark event is the start of history being written, that would impact on generations to come, home and away evolving to become a food loving tourist dream. The Taste Off Food Festival seeks to:
Raise national awareness about food, the way it is produced and the costs (health, environmental etc.) how it is Distributed, sold and eaten.
Promote Nigerian Cuisine and Food Recipes & promote the production of quality, locally produced foods, to encourage healthy eating and community health among other objectives.
Inspiration behind the Taste Off Lagos Food Festival
My love for food was a major influence and also the fact that it was a new concept in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole, this made it more exciting to explore the possibilities.
Food was never the highlight of events four years ago when we started. Nigeria is blessed as a whole with a rich cultural heritage and food plays a major role in our society, defining who we are as a people and why not a food festival to export and educate people about our rich food cultural heritage. Also, exploring the international food scene here in Nigeria to sensitize people of the variety of foods available in the country.
Challenges faced organising the event
Sponsorship! At the time I started everyone said food was not an thing that organization would consider sponsoring, in fact no one saw the potentials. For them it was either Fashion, Music or Sports. Also in the area of participation, established restaurants would not even give us a listening ear. But I was determined and decided to bare the cost for the initial start up and thus carved a niche for ourselves in SME development as small businesses patronised us.
Contributing factor to Taste Off Lagos success
People can now see the vision and the potential of a Food Festival. It has become a cliché where people can hang out with family and friends at a reasonable cost and have a good time.
What to expect from this year’s festival
A bigger and better organised food festival. A wider selection of food vendors showcasing both local and international cuisine which would be on display for tasting and sales. Also this year we anticipate a bigger audience and an unavoidable involvement of the international community.
Benefits to food vendors
Better visibility, 100% sales with maximum profit because our booths are affordable. They will have a wider audience to cater to which will give them accessibility to a larger clientele to grow their businesses. Its also a great Launch pad for new products or existing products. Whichever way you look at it, this year is a win- win situation for anyone who gets involved. We are also working on a partnership for this year’s event to make it a mega food festival.
Difference between Taste Off Lagos and other food festivals
My food festival was the first ever before anyone else even thought that food events could be a success in Nigeria. So the originality sets us miles apart from others. We have a larger audience and its one event per year so people don’t get bored. All vendors in the past can testify to sales and patronage even after the event. Generally it has been positive response since we kicked off in 2012.
Festival’s biggest success
I am proud of faith in the growth of the event and a good Support system. Miss Safiat , Mr. Taofick , TheSocialyte PR , BDX and I have worked tirelessly to ensure the success of each and every event, without all their support I would not have been able to get were I am today with the food festival. Cultural Impact and sheer popularity, the fact that people recognize the brand and want to associate with it is a huge success to me.
Attending other food festivals
I attended other food festivals in personal capacity, I have been to different food festivals around the world and I see the huge growth potentials. So we will continue to be consistent in what we do and be original.
The festival’s future
We plan to have a Taste Off Food Festival in Major cities around Nigeria. Taste OFF Food festival is also evolving to be a FOOD Festival Brand where we partner with state governments or other events, that is, food, cultural, sports etc.
These events do not necessarily want to handle the food festival aspect of their event. Currently we have a database of over 200 food vendors in Lagos state and most we have a relationship with and we plan to expand this database across Nigeria.