Somewhere in the Canadian city of Winnipeg, there’s a bakery making thick, robust Agege bread. Without its packaging, the locals often have to take a bite to decide what it is. But the Nigerian who has spent his whole life consuming this incarnation of bread can tell it from a long way off.
It’s not a surprise that the said bakery is run by Nigerian. Bryan and Temi Akindipe, a couple whose earlier lives were lived in Lagos, has brought a bit of their home country’s culinary specialties to Canada. And from the look of things, they aren’t doing badly at it.
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They have been at this for more than five years. The business, Arabelle’s Bakery, started off in 2014 as an experiment to recreate the nostalgic experience of the old Nigerian loaf, which they couldn’t find in Canada’s thinly flavoured bakes. Today it’s filling diverse bellies, including those barely familiar with African food.
Bryan says he and Temi decided to try selling their own spin of the bread after other Nigerians spoke of their longing for the dishes they consumed in their homeland. Bryan recalls having conversations with other Nigerian staff at their local hospital, while he as a staff there; talk of Agege bread came up frequently enough for him to take notice. It registered somewhere in his mind.
While Temi was on maternity leave for their second child, the couple decided to take a leap into the commercial bread business. Bryan had already been working on the bread recipe, in the bid to create something acceptable to a wider range of palettes than just Nigerian ones. When they became convinced that they had found the sweet spot, they rented a space in Winnipeg and launched Arabelle’s Bakery.
But it wasn’t all rosy from the beginning. They learned that starting a business in Canada was somewhat different from what obtained back in Nigeria. They had to sort out issues with licensing and regulations and fund the business with their personal savings. Thankfully, there was help from local organizations who assisted with the process of setting up.
Arabelle’s Agege bread offering has a fitting brand name of its own Lagos Loaf. There’s rye bread, white bread, and coconut bread, and whole wheat bread versions of it. The bakery also produces meat pies, donuts, brownies, scotch eggs, and cinnamon rolls.
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These products are sold in several of Winnipeg’s pastry stores, elsewhere in the wider region of Manitoba, and via online outlets.
Bryan and Temi point out that bread is widely consumed across economic and social classes in Nigeria, something that isn’t exactly true in Canada. But they’re hoping to change this status quo in their second home; it’s another part of the Nigerian experience that they would like to replicate there.
Featured image source: Winnipeg Free Press
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