Food Lead Story West Edition

A JOLLOF GOOD TIME: Festival celebrating West African dish jollof rice comes to L.A.

LOS ANGELES — A representative of Nigeria was selected the winner of the Los Angeles version of the Jollof Rice Festival.

First-time festival participant Aduke Oluwafunmilayo Oyetibo represented Nigeria. She is the owner of Aduke African Cuisine located on West Pico Boulevard.

“Hard work pays you know,” Oyetibo said. “I woke up at 5 a.m. you know, putting all my spices together to make sure Nigeria got this win this year.”

Demand Africa is hosting the third annual Jollof Rice Festival this year, touring around the United States to answer the age-old question – which West African country makes the best jollof rice? 

The festival was a daylong event Aug. 17 at the Owsla pop up clothing store on Broadway downtown.

Demand Africa is a streaming service offering a variety of television series, movies and documentaries in hopes to demystify modern Africa and its people for their viewers. Demand Africa serves as a destination to connect the world to Africa and introduce to new voices reflective of Africa’s rich and diverse culture.

This year participants represent five different West African countries:  Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal. It is a rivalry that spans generations and is not to be taken lightly. The fate of these participants is in the guests’ hands. The guests taste each jollof rice dish, then use their phones to vote for their favorite.

Jollof rice is a fiery dish cooked in a tomato pepper chili-based sauce. Tomatoes, onions, red bell pepper and scotch bonnet pepper are blended together creating an aroma your nose cannot deny. The end result is a pot full of vibrant and flavorful rice that, if done correctly, is a hint of orange. Some people substitute rice for quinoa.

All over West Africa, you can find different versions of jollof rice. Everyone claims that they created it first. However, jollof rice most likely comes from the Wolof people of Senegal. Their national dish is thieboudienne — jollof rice is a simpler version of that. Some also say jambalaya, the southern rice dish, popular in African-American households, is an extension of jollof rice.

Most attendees tried giving each dish a fair chance, while others allowed their bias to influence their decision. “Well, being that I’m of Ghanaian descent — I’ll just leave that right there,” Jacques Lesure said. He had already made up his mind before sampling the other entries.

Prior to Los Angeles, the festival had stopped in four cities. A country must win in three cities in order to be crowned the 2019 Jollof Rice Festival winner. Thus far, Sierra Leone is the frontrunner with two first place wins.

“So, here’s the thing, Naija has not won not one city yet for jollof rice,” Jollof Rice Festival host Duain Richmond said. “I know Naija is never last — but in 2019 for jollof rice you are currently last.

“Ghana and Liberia split the win in Atlanta, Senegal won New Jersey, and Sierra Leone has won Oakland and D.C.,” Richmond said.

Oyetibo still has a chance to win for Nigeria as the tour continues on to New York and Minnesota next.

No matter the winner, the day is all about community, culture and fellowship.

“Everybody should try jollof,” Lesure said. “African Americans, figure out your African ancestry and find out where you’re from. That’ll give you a sense of liberation so when you come out to these things, you’ll understand where you are.

“You’ll have a sense of connection. Africa is a continent with many great countries and cultures, so find out where you’re from.