Dept. of Culture Chef Ayo Balogun Shows Us What’s Inside His Fridge

ayo balogun

“I cook at home in waves,” says Ayo Balogun, the Brooklyn chef who made different kinds of waves when he opened his Brooklyn restaurant Dept. of Culture in 2022. The food gets served tasting menu-style at a large-ish communal table and features ingredients and dishes Balogun’s native Kwara State. Last year, following Dept. of Culture’s rapturous reception, Balogun opened his sequel in Clinton Hill, Radio Kwara, which spotlights the beloved pepper soup from Dept. of Culture, but which also meant that he has less time to prepare food at home. That’s where the Van Leeuwen comes in. 


  1. “I cook at home in waves. Its a lot of work to go home and cook after youve been cooking all day. I cook at home when I get inspired—youre coming up with all this interesting stuff, then you fall out of it again, then you fall back into it. It just goes in and out like that.”
  2. “I was having Van Leeuwen a few months ago and was thinking that I wanted to do something with them because theres some flavors from my part of the world that we dont represent well enough. I love what theyre doing, so I think Im going to reach out to them.”
  3. “Some people call it ogbono, we call it apon. Its a soup thats going to come on a dish at Dept. of Culture at some point, so Im just messing with it right now. Its one of those dishes that is an acquired taste for Nigerians. I dont know if the Western palate is ready for it yet.”
  4. “Ola is my son, and we make this cheese at the Dept. of Culture called wara that he really loves. Every time anybody comes to my apartment, they just go into the fridge and eat things, so I put that in front of the quart, with a label that says, ‘Do not touch this, because I have to protect his property.”
  5. Brooklyn Suya is a project that my buddy Hema [Agwu] started. Its a mixture of yaji [spice] and aioli. Its something we mess around with when were making sandwiches or stuff like that. Its just a thing we do.”
  6. “Matt Diaz from For All Things Good is a good buddy of mine, and from time to time, he brings me the salsa matcha, but the only problem is I eat too much of it. Its an issue.”
  7. “We use a lot of raw peanuts, which are an addition to some of the stuff were doing at the new restaurant Radio Kwara. You know how in a lot of Japanese [restaurants] theyll offer edamame? We offer boiled peanuts, because thats something we do a lot in Nigeria.”


Photo Assistant: Iain Emaline.

Chill by Con Ed.