How this young woman’s innovative menu can change the way Africans eat
Standing at the door welcoming customers into her newly opened one-stop shop for healthy salads and dishes; Madey finally came out of her shell. Before she decided to open a salad bar, she usually stayed behind the scenes ensuring that orders were delivered to customers. This was in 2012, when Green Grill House was a delivery only service. “Now I have to be here from when we open to when we close- everyday; Monday to Saturdays I interact with customers. So now I guess people are putting a face to the name.”
The distinctive restaurant located at No 15 Wole Ariyo Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos is the epitome of simplicity. From the garden chairs beside the door, to the “score board” menus situated at strategic locations of the shop, the shop emulates in design what it preaches through the assorted trays of healthy and ‘clean’ food.
Madey’s decision to specialise strictly on green and nutritious food seemed like a risk, but not when you consider that healthy eating, particularly in metropolitan cities in Nigeria has slowly but surely become the preferred option of the young and employed. “I was surprised there were people who had an interest in eating healthy. But it is a topic of public awareness everywhere, everybody is trying to eat better and stay fit.”
Mrs Madey Adeboye, who hails from a blend of the Middle belt and Northern regions of Nigeria projects this cultural infusion through a wide range of African dishes. In almost every aspect of her life, beginning with her decision to study law and better understand the power of persuasion, her target has always been to succeed. Even though she isn’t practising in a court of law, she is able to apply a lot of acquired managerial skills within the walls of the restaurant. “I learnt a lot about negotiations and other things like that, I use those skills with my staff now.”
Madey, who is about five feet six inches tall, likes to wear braids and bears quite a resemblance to talk show icon Oprah Winfrey, although Madey is slightly slimmer. She speaks with a Northern tinged accent that illuminates her upbringing in Kaduna state.
The first daughter of her parents, she is born to a lecturer father who is also a fitness enthusiast who always encouraged his family to eat well and exercise—especially chubby Madey. “He always taught us the benefits of keeping fit,” she told me. That experience further encouraged her to delve into a healthy food business, especially when she realised that she could eat better while enjoying African delicacies. “I love okra soup and I realized that I could make my okra soup with healthier meat; instead of using beef I used chicken and fish. I also realised I didn’t have to use oil,” she explained.
At first Green Grill House targeted working Lagosians who wanted good food but didn’t have access to a plate of delicious jollof rice in their office canteens. The truth is, getting variety when you are limited to a specific area with a one-hour lunch break is hard, and Madey understood that.
When she noticed that salads were selling more than the other dishes available, she found calling! What was it about this salad? It seemed like it became a trend amongst health eaters overnight, even converting frequenters of crab filled lunches, to the light and flavourful bowl of greens.
Even though a Nigerian diet isn’t necessarily the healthiest, it is one of the most addictive for food lovers in Nigeria. “Nigerians are generally obese, our food doesn’t help. If you can lose weight and then keep fit, you don’t have to be skinny, just be fit and make sure your heart is working well.”
Who would have thought that some of these meals could be prepared with just a little ‘ingredient’ adjustments here and there? This obsession of trying new recipes started as a hobby. At first, Madey would experiment with varied dishes before finding a distinctive type of salad or savoury dish. Going the extra mile to source for spices is what makes the food in her café different. “For one, all my recipes are not common, you can’t find them in any cookery book, and a lot of these mixtures come from my head. I just think what if I do this and that, how would it turn out?”
Although she says doesn’t have any sentimental reason for focusing on people participating in weight watching programs, she put specific dishes to test and made a shocking discovery- she lost about 18kg from eating healthy during a weight loss program. A realisation which fit with a developing new attitude Nigerians have towards good living. And even better, they can enjoy a big portion bowl of salad for a reasonable price of about N1, 500. At a sustainable growth rate, Green Grill House has finally become a household name after three years of being in the food market.
Even though profit making is important, this start-up business is focused on the ultimate goal—changing the way Africans eat. Amidst other challenges like sourcing good vegetables from outside Lagos and occasional scarcity, Madey has managed to forge ahead. “We have loyal customers who have been with us since we started and then we have loyalists who have given us a chance. We have made mistakes so they have been watching and have pin pointed out our mistakes and they have given us a second chance to redeem ourselves.”
With only a handful of vegetarians in Nigeria, it was a bit difficult to convince people that the meals served at Green Grill House were not your regular fast food dishes, but a distinctive blend of culture and healthy living.
The menu offers more than salads. From Moi moi (bean pudding) prepared with less oil, to tasty chicken infused in a salad with spiced pepper, known as yaji and a variety of flavour tea and yoghurt- Madey knows her audience.
For a young woman armed with just the initial idea of owning a salad bar, Madey is on the path to revolutionizing the concept of healthy living and even possibly creating the first Nigerian ‘clean and green’ franchise. Along with her sister who recently launched a continental restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya, the future of this potential duo in Africa seems bright.
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