Chef Izu Ani’s Path to Global Acclaim as a Culinary Mastermind
BY JENNIFER IKWUEGBE
At just 14, Izu’s curiosity for cooking bloomed. His path led him through various experiences, starting from embracing Home Economics in school. Little did he realize then, this seemingly casual choice would shape his future in the culinary sphere.
Izu is one of four siblings and was raised by a single mom in London, UK. His mom worked hard in various jobs to support them. At 16, Izu decided to pursue his passion for cooking since academics weren’t his strong suit. He faced challenges along the way, like being laid off from a bakery due to struggles with math. However, he was fortunate to find his mentor, Ian Crowe, who introduced him to the art of making fancy salads. Ian Crowe played a crucial role as Izu’s first mentor, helping him kickstart his journey in the industry. Through dedication and hard work, Izu successfully completed a year-long youth training program with Ian Crowe, impressing everyone. Upon finishing the program, Ian Crowe secured him a position at Sheraton Belgravia, a prestigious five-star hotel. In addition to this opportunity, Izu was also offered sponsorship to pursue his Level 3 MVQ, an internationally recognized qualification for chefs, by Sheraton.
Following his time at Sheraton, Izu went on to work at some prestigious restaurants around the world. First was at Rigby and Kaisersburg before securing a position at the renowned Free Mission Star, where he made history as the first black chef to join their team. The Free Mission Star provided him with invaluable learning opportunities, granting him more knowledge and insight into the culinary arts. After spending a year and a half there, Izu ventured on to work at the esteemed Jakshiba and Michelle Bra, both Michelin-starred restaurants. These experiences proved to be of immense worth, as they exposed him to the intricacies of fine dining, deepening his understanding of culinary techniques, and emphasizing the significance of creativity and innovation in the kitchen.
Having perfected his skills at these world’s most renowned restaurants, Chef Izu decided to try his luck in the Middle East and explore new culinary opportunities. His first restaurant, La Petite Maison, opened in Dubai in 2004, quickly gained a reputation for its outstanding Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant’s menu features fresh, seasonal ingredients and a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere. The restaurant’s dedication to delivering a delightful dining experience has led to its expansion, with additional locations opening in cities like London, Miami, Istanbul, and Abu Dhabi. He went on to open several other successful eateries, including La Serre, The Lighthouse, and Izu Brasserie & Bakery.
Meanwhile, with the arrival of Chef Izu’s restaurant, the popularity of Nigerian cuisine has taken a giant leap forward in Dubai, which brings a fresh perspective and elevates the rich flavors of Nigerian dishes to new heights.
Izu Ani has become quite the sensation in Dubai as a celebrated chef, earning accolades and recognition for his culinary excellence and creativity, notably as the Best Head Chef at the prestigious Caterer Middle East Awards in 2016.
Beyond his thriving ventures, Ani’s dedication extends to mentoring aspiring chefs through masterclasses and culinary events, earning him high regard in the industry. Ani’s success is rooted in unwavering commitment, evident in his culinary landmarks like Alaya, Carine, Eunoia by Carine, Gaia, La Maison Ani, and Theo, the world’s leading olive oil brand.
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