Jason Adetola wants you to stop and smell your food

The host of woo’s new Mindful Cookalong podcast talks about comfort food, foraging and being vegan on a budget

A man holding a bowl of food, a person holding a strawberry and a fork
A man holding a bowl of food, a person holding a strawberry and a fork

The host of woo’s new Mindful Cookalong podcast talks about comfort food, foraging and being vegan on a budget

By Darshita Goyal22 Feb 2024
6 mins read time
6 mins read time

There’s never been a better time to be interested in food. You have Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri glamming up the job of chefs in The Bear. Then there’s young people’s continued interest in seeking out the best new restaurants, attending supper clubs, weekly new pastry shop reveals and a renaissance of foraging and slow living.

If you’ve ever wanted to stop and smell the rose(mary), thyme or basil, now is the moment. woo’s three-part podcast series, Mindful Cookalong, embodies these themes and encourages you to truly be present when you’re cooking. Is the tomato reddish orange or orangish red? How pungent does the apple cider vinegar smell? Does the courgette feel cold between your fingers? Is it peeling off easily?

Go on this meditative journey of chopping, stirring and breathing in with host Jason Mackson Adetola, a Germany-born, half-Nigerian who sees food as a conscious experience, not just a necessary intake. From hosting foraging tours and offering vegan solutions to recipes, to using his time as an athlete as inspiration, Adetola is here to help you heal your relationship with food.

Before you dive in, get to know your chef. What music is he listening to? Who does he follow online for comfort? What’s his go-to recipe? It’s all here.

What inspired your culinary journey?

Jason: I started creating culinary experiences from a young age. I attended a Montessori school and this type of education focuses on children's natural interests, gaining real world skills and activities (cooking, foraging, plant identification). Furthermore, my father and grandfather got me and my siblings involved in the kitchen quite early – this was crucial. I quickly noticed that dishes taste a lot better if you are able to identify the ingredients in them. Knowledge of food gave me a greater sense of control, it dispelled the fear that a lot of people experience around it.

What’s your go-to comfort recipe? How long does it take to whip up?

Jason: The king of all curries: a chickpea curry! Served with quinoa, wild rice or flatbread, avocado, plantain and leafy greens on the side. Nothing comes close. It takes me about 45 minutes to whip it up but there are always leftovers. And the best thing…it tastes much better the following day, once the flavours have blended and intensified.

Which songs are playing on repeat while you're in the kitchen?

Jason: Lovers rock and neo-soul! Cooking gives you time to play and create. It's a meditation of the senses, so I enjoy listening to music on a similar frequency. Mellow and warming sounds enhance this meditation. Robert Glasper’s tunes or Bitty McLean’s Walk Away From Love are always on repeat.

Tell us your top tips for foraging in London.

Jason: Cities are much wilder than we might imagine. There is a lot of medicine hidden onour doorsteps: elders, chickweed, cleavers, hawthorns, nettles, dandelions. Foraging is less about finding and more about looking. It's always a great idea to attend foraging walks in your local area. They are often inexpensive; we even offer free foraging walks throughout the year. We often start with herbs that you might already know from your childhood. For instance, dandelions, nettles or blackberries. Learn about their identification, uses, energetics and lookalikes. Start with one herb at a time and you will slowly build up a portfolio of local ingredients. Foraging is for everyone.

What is your favourite food discovery in the wild? What did you make from it?

Jason: During spring time it has to be any member of the allium (onion) family. This includes wild garlic, three-cornered leek or wild onions. They can be sweet or sour, soft or crisp, tangy or dripping with umami. You can often smell the aromatic and garlicky scent from a distance after a rainfall. It’s hard to imagine that nature blesses us with these flavourful treats during winter and early spring. They make the best pesto you can imagine. Pears are also up there: the gift of the Gods, one of my favourite foraging treats during late autumn.

How does your experience as an athlete influence your culinary journey?

Jason: As an athlete you always look for strategies to boost your performance, and for me the link between food consumption and athletic performance was always very clear. So, I experimented from a young age to identify what foods served me well and what foods made me feel sluggish. I noticed that consuming a greater variety of wholefoods improved my agility and speed compared to a consumption of processed foods. This inspired me to further explore the world of natural foods.

What's your advice for vegans on a budget?

Jason: Keep it simple. Stick to whole foods that are available in your local area and don't try to overcomplicate your dishes. Always try to find a good balance of healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds), proteins (legumes, ancient grains, seeds), and carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains). Remember that slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to be. So start with one dish that you feel inspired to recreate, this can be as simple as a porridge for breakfast.

Name five people you follow on social media for comfort, mindfulness, and joy.

So much of flavour is taste, smells and sight. Why did you pick sound and a podcast as your medium?

Jason: Cooking is a meditation of the senses where sound, colour, light and texture come together to nourish you. But focusing on all the senses can be quite overwhelming, and having to watch a video to recreate your favourite dish can be seen as a nuisance. So I hope that focusing on sound will give you more time to discover the beauty that you can create with your heart and hands. It is like listening to a joyful song while creating your favourite dishes. Bringing the joy back to the meditation that is cooking.

For more feel good recipes and food-themed think pieces, check out our Mindful Cookalong hub here, and listen to all of our episodes on Spotify, Apple, Amazon, or wherever else you get your podcasts.