The Edmonton-based YouTube sequence options neglected eating places
A few years ago, while on a trip with friends, Tomi Okunnuga was introduced to a hidden gem of Edmonton: Monamie Resto.
The restaurant had a menu that consisted mostly of African dishes. It surprised self-proclaimed foodie Okunnuga, who emigrated from Lagos, Nigeria. He said it was the first time a meal had exceeded his expectations.
“There are a lot of places out there that no one really knows about,” he told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.
“If you’re not in this circle, you don’t know these places and most of these companies don’t benefit from them.”
That experience in 2017, along with his background in film, inspired Okunnuga to launch YEG Eats, a series of short films that feature the city’s lesser-known restaurants.
The YEG Eats range includes eight Edmonton restaurants, including the Mesobena Restaurant. (Tomi Okunnuga / YEG eats)
Lack of funding plagued the project with delays. He unsuccessfully applied for funds from countless organizations. But the pandemic has put everything in full swing. Okunnuga noted the struggles locally run restaurants went through during this time.
Finally, he decided to present his idea to the Edmonton Community Foundation.
“They told me it’s not the kind of thing we do, but it’s a great idea and we’re going to find a way to fund it. And it was funded,” he said.
With a new budget of $ 8,000, Okunnuga partnered with Orchard Lane Media and rented the equipment he needed to comply with the social distancing rules.
“In the end we found that there are a lot of colored places that nobody knows,” he said, adding, “Most of their restaurants were just under the radar.”
Listen | Edmonton filmmaker talks about a web series showcasing hidden restaurant gems:
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One crew member took on the task of finding restaurants and discovered the overlooked food gems like the Greenhouse Health Food Eatery.
“The fact that there was healthy food that was really good tasted and that you didn’t have to break the bank for it was huge,” said Okunnuga.
Restaurant owner and chef Mikhail Prime has been running his business for 12 years. It has become a staple of the University of Alberta and has a loyal customer base, according to Prime and Okunnuga.
Calling Okunnuga “healthy junk food,” Prime’s menu draws on its Caribbean heritage: the food is full of flavor and color, and is focused on health.
Prime works with dietitians and nutritionists to develop its recipes.
“We all grew up playing sports,” said Prime. “And you know, one of the biggest things we know is that nutrition is really important and how you perform, how you move about in your daily life.”
Prime describes his business as “mid-major”.
“You have to know to know us. And that’s kind of cool right now, ”he said.
Now that its eight episode series has ended, Okunnuga is focused on season two.
“The food scene is a lot bigger than people think. There’s a lot out there.”
View | YEG Eats’ episode on Monamie Resto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=https://www.youtube.com/watch