The founder and proprietor of Orlando’s Flavors Nigerian Restaurant, Ola Bello was planning on becoming a nurse when she came here. But the simple act of preparing meals, and its reminders of her family life growing up in Lagos, pointed her toward her true calling. “Cooking is an extension of what my mom does,” she says. “We can’t do without our food. And I was cooking all the time, so even though I finished nursing school I was also cooking at the end of the day. So I decided ‘Why do all of this?’ and just concentrated on the food.”
Now her business is a nexus point for her community. “Nigerians found us, and our food connects us to our heritage,” she explains. And there’s no chance of that connection loosening anytime soon: “I came here at 31 and [am] married to a Nigerian, so the culture is not going anywhere. It is in us.” Attending church strengthens those bonds even further (there are 11 Nigerian churches in Orlando, Bello says), and she and her husband take their children to group meetings once a month where they’re schooled in the ways of their parents’ native culture. “We have one for each of the three ethnicities,” she says of these groups. “Yoruba is mine. The others are Ibo and Hausa. We don’t understand each other’s languages.” But at least they have good food to bring them together.