Nigeria Jollof declared champion in first ever Washington DC Jollof Festival

Jollof Festival
Winner of Jollof Festival Nigeria’s Ms. Atinuke Ogunsalu of Queensway Restaurant & Catering in Maryland, USA, with hands on chest.

On July 2, 2017, Ms. Atinuke Ogunsalu of Queensway Restaurant & Catering in Maryland, US, became the winner of the first ever Jollof Hackathon presented by I/O Spaces during Jollof Festival In Washington DC. The event was organized by Afropolitan Insights.

Ms. Ogunsalu put skeptics to shame with her win and proved to all that Nigerians can indeed cook Jollof when she secured her country the win at the event. Her competitors at the event were Cameroon, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. Jollof is cooked in a single pot with rice and a tomato-based stew plus preferred meat, fish or poultry. It is very popular the world over especially among West Africans.

Jollof with goat meat

The winning chef arrived at the event venue; 1630 19th Street in North West of Washington DC, with high hopes despite heavy opposition fueled by the popular assertion at that Nigeria Jollof, was indeed nothing to write home about.

A good number of the over 600 people that attended the #JollofFestival had high expectations of team Ghana Jollof to win, unfortunately, Ghana sold out due quickly of food, though they had called for backup it never arrived on time so they were beaten by the clock.

Jollof Festival
Lucinda Mensah is a Ghana Jollof fan based in Virginia USA

According to Lucinda Mensah a Ghanaian Jollof enthusiast based in Virginia USA that spoke with: “there was no Ghana jollof to taste when it was time to judge as we sold all since people were buying it like crazy. If Ghana had just one teaspoonful of jollof for the judges to taste we could have easily won. I noticed the Nigerians had a truckload of their jollof on deck, they came to battle and won fair and square.

When it was time to make their final presentations to the judges it was only Cameroon, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria that were left standing.

Four-time ‘Embassy Chef Challenge’ participant and executive chef at the Ghana Embassy in Washington DC — Chef Francis Otoo — was joined by Gigi Ness of African Cuisine Inc, Tamara Raye of NATIVSOL, Maame Boakye of Dine Diaspora and Jamaican Andrea Coleman, (a) Jollof enthusiast, on the panel of judges to adjudge and announce the winner.  

Each finalist was given five minutes to present their dish to the judges who based their decisions on participants’ presentation, taste, and originality.

According to Chef Otoo whose opinion was shared by the other judges, Ms. Ogunsalu did not only “capture a great taste and healthy combination of ingredients in her meal, she did an awesome job at presentation and that was something very pleasing to the tongues and eyes of the judges” he told a media partner of the event.

Newly crowned #JollofFestival champion Ms. Ogunsalu told that she was glad to have carried the day for Nigeria, and felt that people can now actually jump off the fence and try Nigerian Jollof for themselves instead of being prejudiced.

Leslie Tita of I:O Spaces (in blue shirt and wearing glasses) hangs out at #JollofFestival

The winner walked away with US$1000 coworking services from event partner I/O Spaces and an opportunity to become a Chef at Jollof Caviar; an upscale African Fusion Restaurant Opening in Washington DC in 2019.

Ishmael Osekre, the Ghanaian-born, New York-based founder of Afropolitan Insights, creators of the festival in an interview with said he was very touched by the attendance and welcoming spirit received from participants, vendors, and the city of Washington DC, adding “thanks to all your efforts we have set a great tone for #JollofFestival and we only look forward to building on it as we popularize the togetherness the meal brings here in the United States.

Ishmael Osekre of Afropolitan Insights with a white towel on shoulder talks to people at the event.

Afropolitan Insights is a collective of young Africans, African-Americans, and Caribbeans from Africa and in the Diaspora who curate events, create spaces for cultural exchange and social dialogue, celebrate diversity, innovation and ideas.

The Jollof wars will continue at the Jollof Festival NYC on July 23rd where organizers are determined to ensure all competitors participate in the competitions. To find out more about the premier Jollof Festival follow the #JollofFestival hashtag online or on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook as @JollofFestival

Source: Oral Ofori of

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  • Keep the dream alive.

  • elpadr1no

    We need more details on all the chefs. Especially the Ghanaian jollof chef since it’s clear she won the popular vote by a mile!

    • She didn’t win the popular vote. She had less than needed. Yoh, how can you win a pop vote with about 2% or so number (exaggerating here). That’s like Gill Stein coming out to say she won popular votes because some people were talking bad about Hillary. Okay.

      Please! She didn’t know she was supposed to keep food for judges? And that’s the person who’s confident she would have won? Tor, una funny. It’s a competition first. wasn’t it? Ko make any kind of sense.

      But, be there keeping hope alive sha.

      • elpadr1no

        Lady, please calm down. She sold out completely way before everyone. But I agree she’s retarded for not having enough food for the food competition she came to.

        • Oluwafemi

          It’s not about selling out. Its about being prepared for the competition. People who came for the competition were there to taste for themselves too so they would have gone through both the Ghanian and the Nigerian jollof and the others present. Its about not preparing, and it could partly be because she knew she didn’t stand a chance with the Nigerian jollof rice. So that there would be an excuse for not winning. We know those strategies. lol

          • elpadr1no

            I heard the Nigerian Jollof lady actually had some leftover Jollof to take home and technically operated at a loss. lol

          • Clay Abiola

            That’s a lie.

        • Very interesting. She didn’t sell out quickly because people bought her stuff before buying others. It sold out because she had limited quantity. It’s not a valid criteria for popularism nor can you make assumption that hers was the best. You basically went to Z from the author’s only A starting point. The author only said “unfortunately, Ghana sold out due quickly of food” but then you jumped into a unfounded inference hat it meant “she won the popular vote by a mile.” Like, erm, isokay! Like I said, make una keep hope alive.

          • elpadr1no

            Ps. Very very cool website. Pls keep up the amazing work you do.

          • Thanks.

  • Zane Khan

    Hahaha if it’s not from Gambia or Senegal I won’t take this serious. Its like a Vietnamese winning a pasta bolognese competition with Ramen Noodles.

    • Well maybe not always. Football originates from England, but today, Brazil dominates in many cases.

      • Ayizan Jekele

        No that’s irrelevant because England is at least allowed to compete. The Gambia and Senegal didn’t even compete. You would’ve been trounced roundly!

        • I don’t think Gambia and or Senegal was barred from participating in this maiden festival. Surely, subsequent events of this kind will rope in more countries, I believe.

          • Ayizan Jekele

            The lady who organized this event is the same one who organized a New York event and she did purposely bar Senegal and The Gambia. I dialogued with her on facebook about her decision. It’s pathetic that she did that because jollof rice started in Senegambia and she displayed immense ignorance as well as the inability to compete. Because Senegambia will trounce Nigeria.

          • Ayizan Jekele

            You don’t “think” The Gambia or Senegal was barred but I *know* they were because I spoke to the organizer months before the competition happened. Maybe based what you think on actual evidence instead of a baseless assumption.

  • Babafemi S. Akinkugbe

    “She sold out before it was time to be judged” What a joke. This is classic example of the parable of the 10 waiting for their bridegroom.

    • Hahaha. A clear sign we need to keep our flame burning, all night, with spare oil, just in case.

  • Ayizan Jekele

    Were Senegal and The Gambia invited or did you just pretend that they don’t exist so Nigeria could win? This is laughable.