Hi loves! I couldn’t be more excited to introduce a new series on the blog of compelling conversations with Broadway and West End’s finest! 🙂 Today we’re kicking it off with Abiola Ogunbiyi, a sweet soul and my partner in crime in London. We kicked off our friendship with food and it’s been blossoming ever since so today we’re diving IN with a vibrant conversation about food & authenticity, two of our favorite topics that keep Abiola FIT FOR WEST END!
NOTE FROM ABIOLA OGUNBIYI: Hello! Abiola is my name & I’m delighted to be here on FFB. I’ve just finished a year as a Swing/Nabalungi cover in the West End production of The Book of Mormon. After training at ArtsEd (an incredible college in London!), I made my West End début as Ali in Mamma Mia and I feel so blessed to have had a career working from the West End, through the UK, Europe, even to China! I’m now about to start rehearsals for the World Première of the new musical, Travels with my Aunt, and I can’t wait for the journey in-store. I’m an Aries, a morning person and a busy bee with a love for creativity. The last year has seen me undergo a massive shift in my mentality towards food, and in my physicality as a result of that. It’s been an intense journey that I am so glad to have gone through, and come out feeling more self-aware and confident than ever. I started following FFB over a year ago, and to now have a feature on the blog is the most wonderful sign of the power in owning your dreams and putting your intentions out into the world with fearless and whole-hearted arms. You’re most likely to find me writing sketches and essays in a cinema café, or running around my kitchen making breakfast and lunch at the same time. Among many other things, it is a major dream of mine to perform on Broadway; I think being featured here on Fit For Broadway is a lot of steps in the right direction! 🙂
Jane: How have you fused creativity & food?
Abiola: I feel like food has always been a really big part of my life. You need it for nutrition anyway, but I feel like growing up with a mum who is such an amazing cook and loves cooking recipes from loads of different countries made me build a strong passion for cooking . She’s always been creative with food in that sense but as a young child i didn’t see it as a creative outlet, i just saw it as “ohh this rice tastes really good.” I guess it was always there in the background. But then I think as I became a more creative person just in the arts as I decided to work in musical theatre and work as a performer I had that aspect growing inside of me as well.
I think it was only recently in the last year or so that I really put the two together. I started following, I wouldn’t call it a diet plan.. I started following a structure that really balanced macronutrients like proteins and healthy fats, and I began to really understand which foods were in each category. I think it’s really interesting because it starts from a very basic place. You just say “oh porridge oats. How am I going to make them? With bananas and milk. Oh but then I could add peanut butter and shredded coconut, and then maybe some cinnamon…Ooo and how about add a few berries?” And you start to realize that you’re adding these things not only because they’re nutritious but because they add to the overall picture of the meal. Now my mum always says that I treat cooking like I’m painting, with how much I think about all the little details. I guess it’s true; I like my food to look pretty!
Jane: I’m all about pretty food. My mom asked me once, “Does all your food look like the food you post on your instagram?” It’s funny because obviously not all of it looks like that, sometimes it looks like a crazy mess but I find I enjoy eating it more when it looks like a work of art.
Abiola: I completely agree. I feel like sometimes I’ve nearly let stuff go cold because I’m trying to balance it like if I just slice some avocado on the side it will look so much nicer and it will have good fats as well. There have been so many food blogs and instagram feeds coming into the spotlight for making food look so artistic. You think oh my gosh that looks beautiful but you can eat it as well. I think it makes it a lot more exciting. When I’ve been in different shows, like when I was doing the Book of Mormon for a year, there’s an urge to just eat out all the time because it’s quick and it’s easy. But for a number of reasons from money to boredom, you don’t want to eat out all the time. So what I started to do was with recipes in restaurants that I really liked.. I would just try and work out how I could make it myself at home. There’s a Thai restaurant literally next to the Prince of Wales theatre that does this really nice spicy prawn fried rice. I was like ok I want to make this myself so I got some brown rice and king prawns and try and work out how to make it taste. And Google is so helpful! I really think Google..Pinterest and Instagram, they’ve done a lot in changing just how we see food because the people who make this food, they’re doing it in their houses, it’s not massive restaurants posting. It’s just people who have taken the time in their own houses so it makes you think well if they’re doing it then so can I. I feel like the blogs are really good because they always encourage you to take a picture and tag them to show how you’ve made it as well. It makes it really accessible.
Jane: You’re an incredibly vibrant person, with food and in life. I love that you’re all about authenticity. It’s so empowering for those around you! How do you create and express authenticity in your life?
Abiola: I’d say practice. I feel like it’s something that you can’t just wake up to, like oh now I know who I am completely. I think it’s something that you will discover more levels of every day so you have to let that happen and understand that it does come from consistent practice. It comes from practicing saying yes but also saying no. The more you do that completely and honestly, like when someone says do you want to go out and you’re battling oh well I’m tired but I know it would be really nice for me to leave the house, you have to really practice thinking about what’s best for you. I would say also say to go alongside that, I don’t want to say fearlessness but you have to take fear and not battle it. Ownership. I feel like ownership is authenticity which comes from a bit of self-reflection. It’s not about going oh.. Who am i? What am I doing here? Those are the questions that we just don’t know. We discover along the way of life. I think in every day situations in your life…looking back on them and thinking was that really me? like when you leave a conversation and you think oh my gosh I wish I had said this. even a heated conversation, I should have said this or something you were trying to convey to someone about how you were feeling and the conversation ends and you didn’t say anything, you weren’t honest. When you can reflect, you can evaluate and make sure that it doesn’t happen again when you practice it again because we are so not perfect but whatever we have right now in the present moment, that’s enough. You have to know that that is enough but if you want to be better, life is going to present you with more opportunities again and again.
Jane: FFB is all about discovering how food effects us- body, mind and spirit! Do you find that food helps your spirit as an expression or positive fueling apart from health and nourishment?
Abiola: So much so. I feel like everyone can feel that when you cook because you feel that when you cook for someone else.
Jane: Or when you share a meal like the first time we met! 26 Grains, my favorite!!
Abiola: Oh my gosh yea! When you have that experience when you’re both eating something saying “this is so good!” haha you’re not talking about oh my gosh look at this egg it’s got so much protein! You’re like no this is pretty and and it tastes amazing and I get to share that with someone else. The same way when you cook for a dinner party. It’s not that you’re eating it and it’s good or someone’s asked you what the nutritional value it, it’s that everyone’s together and everyone can share and delight in what you’ve done, you’re making such a cool contribution.
Jane: Which is sort of the same way to process being an artist. You’re there to share and to experience an exchange of energy and coming together. Coming together at the table or coming together at the theatre… it sort of all plays in to the same idea.
Abiola: Yes, it has a definite parallel. I feel like they relate to one another because when you do a performance or prepare for an audition, you have to put in so many things, so many ingredients… your clothes, your hair, your sheet music, your mentality.. you put everything together but at the end you let it go. It’s like audition cake! You’ve mixed all these things together and you have to put it into the oven and leave it and trust in what’s going to come out. Because you can’t take it back and dissect it, it doesn’t serve you. It does actually have quite a good parallel.
When you sit and make something, it’s the feeling of going through the motions like if you have a recipe in front of you. The act of doing everything in stages and having a product at the end, it’s nice to finish something. As an artist, it’s hard to always finish things. Personally, I have so many ideas going through my head. I’m working on how to do one idea and another one pops in my head. I can imagine if that was in a kitchen I’d be so messed up… everything would be burning haha!
It’s nice to have that though. I’ve had some days where I don’t feel very creative and I just cook, I think ok, let me just make lunch. So then I feel like I’ve made something and it’s nice.
Jane: I love to cook for myself when I’m feeling off, it instantly helps me reboot mind, body & spirit. It’s like a gift for myself in line with the whole idea of self love. A creative expression to nourish your body!
Abiola: It might feel like work, but it’s work for yourself that becomes an enjoyable experience. You do lose track of the time but then suddenly you have this finished product, and it’s really satisfying to say, oh this? Well, I made this myself.
Jane: What’s your favorite thing that you cook at home?
Abiola: My favorite thing to cook at home… I’ll tell you I really love at the moment, sweet potatoes.
Jane: Yes!! I chop them and add coconut oil on them in the oven. There’s nothing better!
Abiola: That’s dreamy. Sometimes I mix in extra virgin olive oil, salt, paprika, and some cumin.. then it’s got this really spicy, South American vibe, or Spanish style to it.. It’s my favorite thing to work out loads of different ways to cook it. Mashed sweet potato! You can just put it on everything. That’s my favorite thing because it’s so simple but it tastes so good!
Jane: When do you feel most authentic?
Abiola: I feel like it might be two things. One is when I’m working with an idea I have. When I start working and through the process as well. I’m writing something with a friend at the minute and when you have that moment when something clicks, it’s so rewarding because it’s taken a lot of time to get to that idea. A lot of thinking and research and you finally come to an idea about how to proceed and you’re both working through that. I’ve had those moments by myself but it’s usually at like 3pm in some coffee shop in Central London. You know, everyone’s working around you and you’ve had your coffee or having your coffee and there’s really cool music playing… you know, something just hits your brain at the time when it’s ready tor receive information. That’s when I feel most authentic because it gives me a lot of faith and belief in my idea and a belief in what I’m doing. It’s odd though because I always try and have that belief naturally and to go in and live life with the idea that everything is happening for a reason, even the bad stuff or even what you might perceive to be bad because of how it’s impacting your life at that time but it’s happening because of something whether it’s a lesson or something else that you just don’t know yet. So when you do have a moment when you’re sailing smoothly, it’s really nice because it makes you feel like what you’re doing is good. It’s nice to feel like my personal idea is coming into fruition.
The other time I feel really authentic.. I really think when I’m with my family.
Jane: I was going to say the same thing!
Abiola: I have two younger sisters, one goes to college in America and the other one is now in University in London but she doesn’t live at home so it’s now only 2 or 3 times a year that we’re all together. But when we’re together it’s like sparks.. fireworks all over the place! You have to contain us. It’s just so nice! The conversation is bouncing off one another and we’re all laughing and there isn’t a thing you can’t say.
Jane: Yes! like a safe place.
Abiola: Yea, it’s so safe. We’re so in sync.. I think whether it’s family, like your relatives, or a family you’ve made through a job or school or even having something that you connect with, like a random hobby, just having a community where you can be yourself is so comforting.
I feel like it’s a really good indicator when you are silent with someone or silent with a group of people and no one feels uncomfortable with that silence. That’s how you know you’re really on the same page, because you’re all being yourself. That’s such a good feeling.
Jane: Yes! It’s so important to understand which situations and people make us feel authentic so that it can be our sort of home base for finding our expression. You make me feel quite authentic as well!! 🙂 We have some wonderful energy swirling in our friendship and many more meals to share right?! 🙂
Abiola: So many more!! I think it’s all about finding the ways we can stay connected. For me, one of those ways is cooking for other people. Food brings people together because, pretty pictures aside, we all need food. So when you have the time to really make a night of it, like cooking for other people, and then you see that everyone happy and smiling and connected and really full, and you know that you’re part of the reason that’s happening, it’s a really rewarding feeling. So much so that I don’t think of it as a chore or a bother. It’s literally the opposite. It makes me feel great and I lose track of time because I’m in the zone with it. That’s my favourite feeling to have when I’m creating. When your experience transcends time, you become unlocked, open, free and really truthful to yourself about what makes you happy. And it’s so important to keep finding that. I find it in my work, as well as in my cooking; I’m teaching myself to feel this way and find this honesty with everything I do.
If you’re curious about the mouth watering salad and cake in the photos (courtesy of Farmgirl in Notting Hill, London) Abiola reimagined this delicious combo and is sharing her recipes below! 🙂 Enjoy!!
ABIOLA’S ROCKETBOWL (Gluten Free)
I create this recipe after months of making quick salads for work based on whatever I had in my fridge at that time; it’s eventually turned into one of my staples, whether I’m in a hurry to leave home for a meeting, or enjoying an easy afternoon. The nutty taste of red quinoa serves a lovely, smoky base for the salad and a great partner to the peppery rocket. Then there’s the salty sundried tomato, creamy avocado, and crunchy and buttery toasted pine nuts, all in all creating a salad loaded with a variety of texture, flavours, and nutrients, guaranteed to leave you both satisfied and super-charged for the rest of the day ☺ No afternoon slump here! And the great thing about the salad is that it’s very easily to adapt. I often substitute rocket for kale, or use white quinoa instead of red, and it still tastes wonderful. There’s also a simple lemon & olive oil dressing to drizzle over the finish product for a fruity tang. All the flavours!
- 1/3c Red Quinoa
- 2/3c Vegetable Stock
- 1c Rocket
- 1tbsp Sundried Tomatoes
- 1tsp pine nuts
- 1/3 of an avocado
- 3oz (85g) Smoked Salmon, sliced.
- 2tsp lemon juice
- 1tsp extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Place red quinoa in a saucepan and rinse in cold water and drain. Add vegetable stock to saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling, lower heat, cover saucepan, and allow to simmer softly for 15-20 minutes
- Meanwhile, dice avocado and slice the sundried tomatoes.
- Place rocket, avocado, smoked salmon and tomatoes in a large salad bowl.
- Toast pine nuts for 3 minutes in a dry, flat saucepan on a medium-high heat.
- Once quinoa has absorbed all the water, take it off the heat and fluff lightly with a fork.
- Once cooled slightly, add quinoa and pine nuts to the salad bowl and mix everything together with a fork and spoon.
- Prepare dressing by mixed lemon juice with extra virgin olive oil and mixing with a teaspoon. Pour dressing over salad.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. (I use a pinch of salt and two twists of pepper.)
CHOCO-BERRY BLAST (Vegan + Gluten Free)
The dreamiest post-workout drink. There are a lot of ingredients, but they all do their bit in creating this naturally sweet and nutrient-packed smoothie. Healthy, with chocolate? Yes please!!
- A small handful of blueberries, frozen
- ½ banana, frozen
- 1tbsp smooth peanut butter
- 1tsp coconut oil
- 2tsp, heaped, cacao powder
- 1tsp chia seeds
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1 date, pitted
- 1c almond milk
- (Optional) 1 heaped tablespoon of Chocolate Protein Powder (I love Sun Warrior)
- Add all ingredients to a Nutribullet and blast until smooth.
- Serve immediately; trust me, there is NO need to wait.