"I've been cooking since I was eight years old," says Clara Frances Dadin-Alli, AKA Frances Ally, owner of online-only Nigerian take-out and catering business Franyz Kitchen (instagram.com/franyzkitchen). Now Dadin-Alli is 28, and has been cooking in Canada since 2010, when she moved here from Nigeria. Her food—dishes like jollof rice, ofada stew and goat-meat pepper soup—is just the ticket for any expats missing home, or anyone who wants to experience authentic Nigerian cuisine without the plane ticket.
"I would cook on campus, and my friends would say I needed to cook for more people, and I thought, OK!" Dadin-Alli says. "At the end of August I thought, I'm going to go big."
And go big she did. Cooking for over 550 people at the Westin Hotel for a Nigerian Independence Day celebration, Dadin-Alli made some of her most most-loved dishes—Egusi soup (made with the seeds from Egusi melons), the ever-popular jollof rice, poundo (a starchy side made with yam flour), fried chicken, plantain and a sweet fried dumpling dessert called puff puff.
"That is my dream, to have a big classy Nigerian restaurant. Maybe in two years I'll be on my feet to do that."
"For all my dishes I use ingredients from back home, that makes it unique and authentic," says Dadin-Alli, adding that the part she might like best about her business is the customers. "I love to hear people ask about the food, they can call me and communicate with me. It's the same with my hair business."
Dadin-Alli also does hair under the name Franyz Hair and is currently in hair and aesthetics school. "I love people, I love customer service," she says.
A notable moment for Dadin-Alli was cooking for Nigerian rapper and songwriter Falz during his Halifax stop on tour. "It was a huge deal for me," she says. "My sister was like, 'Oh my god.'"
Her ultimate goal is to combine her love of hair styling and cooking into a restaurant and salon in the same location. "That is my dream, to have a big classy Nigerian restaurant. Maybe in two years I'll be on my feet to do that," Dadin-Alli says. "I'd love if celebrities from African or Caribbean countries or the States travelling here could come to an authentic Nigerian restaurant."
"It has to be classy," she adds. "Nigerians love classiness. They work hard and they play hard, too."