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‘We need a festival to export and educate people about our rich food cultural heritage’


Mrs Abisola Dejonwo-Tokan

Mrs Abisola Dejonwo-Tokan

Mrs Abisola Dejonwo-Tokan is the creative mind behind the biggest food festival in Nigeria: Tatse Off. A graduate of Business Administration from the University of Kent, Canterbury, Bisola’s love for food drove her passion to bring different food vendors under one roof for a gastronomical experience for foodies like her. Taste Off, which debuted in 2012 at the Freedom Park, Onikan, now has over 500 Vendors signed up. With this year’s event slated for October 2-3 at the Eko Atlantic, she tells The Guardian the story of how it all started

What inspirited you to begin 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.

What challenges did you face in actualizing your dreams for this festival?
Sponsorship! At the time I started everyone said food was not an in-thing that organizations 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 bear the cost for the initial start up and thus carved a niche for ourselves in SME development as small businesses patronized us.

Taste Off Food Festival has recorded a big success over the years; what has been the biggest contributing factor to this?
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.

With so many food festivals popping up in Lagos and Nigeria what makes yours different from others?
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.

What should foodies expect from this year’s festival?
A bigger and better organized 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.

What benefits do the vendors who sign up for this year’s festival stand to gain?
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.

Tell us what has been the biggest success with your festival so far
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.

How do you measure success? By profit earned? Cultural impact? Sheer popularity?
Cultural Impact and sheer popularity, the fact that people recognize the brand and want to associate with it is a huge success to me.

Have you attended any other food festivals in a professional or personal capacity?
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.

Tell us your future dream about Taste Off. Do you see it expanding even further?
We plan to have a Taste Off Food Festival in Major cities around Nigeria. It is also evolving to be a Food Festival Brand where we partner with state governments or other events such as 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.

In this article:
Mrs Abisola Dejonwo-Tokan
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