Yewande Komolafe is a chef and recipe developer living in Brooklyn. She moved to the US from Nigeria when she was 16, to go to college.
She came on a student visa. But then, through no fault of her own, she lost her immigration status. In an instant, she became an illegal immigrant.
“It was an honest mistake," Yewande says, "but it was also a mistake that really severely affected my life.”
Yewande chose to stay here and work to become a chef -- undocumented.
And she’s had a lot of success. She’s worked in high end restaurants in Baltimore, Atlanta, and New York. And she develops recipes for cookbooks and magazines, including the New York Times and Bon Appetit.
But staying in the United States without a visa meant Yewande couldn’t go home. If she left the United States, she wouldn’t be able to get back in.
Now, Yewande hasn’t been back to Nigeria in 20 years. And in order to stay in the country, she’s had to keep part of who she is secret. Even cooking Nigerian food felt risky.
“It made it harder to talk about, being Nigerian. And it made it harder to share.”
This week on The Sporkful, Yewande sets out to answer some big questions.
When you have to hide part of who you are, how do you connect with the tastes of home? And what happens when it starts to feel like you’ve been gone so long, maybe it’s not home anymore?
This episode contains explicit language.
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Interstitial music in this episode from Black Label Music:
- "Kenny" by Hayley Briasco
- "Legend" by Erick Anderson
- "Mouse Song Light" by Ken Brahmstedt
- "Pong" by Ken Brahmstedt
- "Rogue Apples" by Karla Dietmeyer
- "Rooftop" by Erick Anderson
- "Sunlight" by Hayley Briasco
Photos: Courtesy of Yewande Komolafe