Episode 188

full
Published on:

17th Mar 2022

Nina Sodji

In my conversation with chef and entrepreneur, Nina Sodji, we talk about her innovative take on traditional west African cuisine at Okra African Grill, her business ups and downs, and her passion for food and community.

Nina Sodji first immigrated to America in 1994 with a business visa, hailing from Togo, a west Africa nation. She began her career as a nurse who had a growing passion for cooking. Nina ran with her heart, opened an African grocery market in Omaha in 2004, and later added a restaurant and was successful until the 2008 Great Recession. She went on to achieve a culinary degree from Metropolitan Community College, and a bachelor’s in business management from Bellevue University. It was at MCC Nina that noticed the foods she grew up enjoying in Togo were derived from lots of cultures: French, Spanish, German, Indian and neighboring African countries. The flavors she grew up loving were a result of her country's complicated history of colonialization, invasion, and political unrest. But the flavors were magical together and sparked her curiosity in experimenting with her favorite Togolese dishes. Nina’s restaurant, Okra African Grill, is her vision to bring these dishes to life in Omaha. An homage to all African cultures and the transcontinental history that have influenced Togolese foods, her cuisine tells a complex story.

This show, one of a year-long series, is supported in part by The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

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About the Podcast

Lives Radio Show & Podcast with Stuart Chittenden
Coming July 3 and then every Sunday at KIOS 91.5FM on Omaha's NPR affiliate, Season Three of Lives will tackle the big questions: What is a good life? Why are we here? How might we feel more connected? These and other big questions about how we live will be explored each week. Through intimate conversations, fascinating guests will share their spiritual, philosophical, artistic, and cultural approaches to exploring the wonders of our human experience. Join me as we delve into the practical and profound possibilities of living well.

While you wait for this new chapter of Lives to air, listen back to Seasons One and Two, featuring fresh voices and diverse perspectives on culture, community, business, and more. From the Midwest and beyond, fascinating guests share compelling stories spanning the fields of politics, business, media, community activism, arts and humanities, philanthropy, and more.

On air since January 2017, Lives Radio Show & Podcast initially broadcast on the community radio station Mind & Soul 101.3FM in north Omaha, housed at the Malcolm X Center, and more recently broadcast with 1st Sky Omaha.

About your host

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stuart chittenden

I believe that conversation enables us to live better and work well by building strong relationships as individuals, teams, and communities.

Driven by that belief, I founded Squishtalks to design and deliver conversation experiences and programs for small to Fortune 500 corporate clients and for a variety of non-profit organizations. I regularly speak and facilitate workshops on the principles of conversation and how their practice enlivens our potential. My belief in the profound power of conversation to awaken our humanity has led to me being selected to speak at three different TEDx events.

I am a British expatriate calling Omaha, Nebraska home since 2004. Before moving to America, I was a London-based lawyer working on major international transactions. In Omaha, as well as founding Squishtalks, I co-founded Gilbert+Chittenden with creativity expert Dan Gilbert, which is a creativity consultancy that helps individuals and organizations realize their best futures and apply design thinking processes to achieve innovative breakthroughs.

Among my community endeavors was the project: a couple of 830 mile long conversations. Inspired by John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, in an RV I adventured for four weeks along side roads and among small towns to talk with Nebraskans. Traveling through conversations, discovering the lives, cultures and stories of people I met, the project was a long hello to Nebraska.