Think of Nigerian cuisine and what may come to mind is jollof rice, peppersoup and fried plantain, among many other delectable local dishes. Hailing all the way from Durban, however, well-revered chef Jade Sullaphen, who is at the helm of the kitchen at the Radisson Blu Anchorage Hotel in Lagos redefines these celebrated national favourites to inspire a culinary odyssey with world flavours for hotel patrons.
With a passion for cooking that began at a very young age and subsequently grew into an extensive tenure working with top-tier hotels from Southern Africa and the world, Sullaphen is able to celebrate local dishes with his personal brand of global flair and formidable experience. This is what he brings to the hotel’s restaurants, namely the Voyage Restaurant and the Surface Bar & Grill.
Having graduated from the M L Sultan Hotel School in the ’90s, Sullaphen went on to gain experience in Ireland and returned to South Africa to work in premium hotel groups in Johannesburg.
“I’ve stuck to hotels because that’s where my path has been. I believe there’s a lot more to offer, there’s a lot more flair for international travel and it also gives you a better opportunity to understand the different international brands. Its also easy to travel and to get jobs internationally,” he shared.
His experience in Lagos has been unique. “It did catch me by surprise right at the beginning, because I researched the flavours and understood certain parts of the cuisine, but because I hadn’t really eaten it before, it took me by surprise as to how actually strong and dominant the flavours are and what makes them so dominant.”
Analysing the flavours has been an enriching experience too..
“They use the same garlic and ginger and herbs and spices that you’d find in South Africa and around the world, but the flavours here are a lot more concentrated. They will ground it up and put in double the amount to give you double the flavour,” he explains. “I put my own spin on it though. I’m not trying to change Nigerian cuisine, but I obviously also bring international-style cuisine to my operation as well. With my travels to Brazil, China, Europe and Africa, I’ve developed all those flavours,” he added.
While he’s kept Nigerian cuisine at the forefront of what’s required, international guests and South Africans missing home can visit the hotel to get a taste of home while in the bustling Victoria Island. “I’ve also modernised a lot of South African dishes that I’ve brought to Lagos.” The menu also offers a bit of Asian and Indian cuisine from his Durban roots.
On his local personal favourites, Sullaphen places jollof rice and tilapia soaked in chilli, garlic and tomato sauce and then deep fried at the top of his list.
The hotel restaurants cater to a diverse crowd, mainly made up of international corporate clients there for conferences and meetings. Formal dinner buffets are offered throughout the week at the Voyage Restaurant, while leisure guests and the local market come to enjoy sundowners and lunch at the Surface Bar & Grill as live music fills the air.
With seven departments and over 50 staff under his wing, Sullaphen is a firm believer in sharing knowledge, and has throughout the years trained a lot of young chefs within the sector. “I’ve put in a lot of time and effort into South Africa and I’ve developed a lot of young chefs who have grown into my former positions that I left in South Africa.”
Sullaphen explains that he’s at a level in his career where he seeks to do as much travelling as possible to share his knowledge with the continent. “Having travelled around the world quite extensively, its given me the opportunity to come back and impart back that knowledge to South Africa. So the next part of my career is to teach Africa my knowledge as well.”