Celebrating Local Chefs: Philomina U. Emeka-Iheukwa

Philomina U. Emeka-Iheukwu is a Rochester-area chef who is passionate about cooking wholesome meals with fresh, regional ingredients through the establishment she founded called Cooking and Eating Healthy with Phil.
Photo provided by @cityofrochesterpublicmarket (photo taken in pre-Covid times)

Philomina U. Emeka-Iheukwu is a Rochester-area chef who is passionate about cooking wholesome meals with fresh, regional ingredients through the establishment she founded called Cooking and Eating Healthy with Phil (Philomina’s). She moved to Rochester from Nigeria in 2008, and this sparked her keen interest in creating recipes that are both healthy and delicious—and inspiring others to cook more nutritiously, too! Her expertise in healthy cooking has allowed her to write multiple books—including Children Who Eat Their Fruits and Vegetables and a cookbook titled Cook Eat Feel Healthy, America which you can find at Rochester’s Abundance coop. She has even filmed a cooking show! Philomina’s menu offerings are not only nourishing but also gluten-free and vegetarian friendly. They include a chickpea salad and exotic coconut soup. You can find Philomina and you can buy her cookbook Saturdays at the Rochester Public Market in Shed B, Stalls 31 and 33. Before meeting her in person to try her delicious food, we hope you enjoy getting to know her by reading her responses to our farm-to-table chef Q&A!

EFL: Describe your favorite cooking creation.

I truly do not have a single favorite in my cooking. I generally love them all. I love to work with food and I try my best to do it with all my heart. Cooking is therapeutic to me!

EFL: What do you love most about your job?

It brings me lasting joy that my creativity with food nourishes the human body instead of destroying it. The customers come back and say “thank you!” and that makes my day.

EFL: Where do you work now and where have you worked in the past?

I have always owned and worked at Cooking and Eating Healthy with Phil (Philomina’s) at the Rochester Public Market. In the past, I helped with running our family restaurant business in Nigeria before migrating to the United States.

EFL: When did you first become interested in farm-to-table cooking?

That was the nature of cooking in Nigeria as I started young. So in 2013 I got inspired to do the same here in Rochester and finally switched to market restaurant in 2015.

Working with seasonal foods makes it easier to source ingredients and also support local small businesses and farms.

Philomina U. Emeka-Iheukwa’s cookbook

EFL: Could you please name a few local food producers you work with now or have worked with in the past?

I support different local farms for different products but my favorites are Johnson Farms, Lagona’s Farm, Grawn Family Farm and Seven Bridges Farm.

EFL: Why do you think utilizing local and seasonal ingredients grown and produced in the Finger Lakes is important?

It’s very important to support local farmers and appreciate their hard work. Again, when the food comes from around us, it’s freshly collected, more nutritious and doesn’t have to come from far away which causes it to start losing quality.

Photo provided by Philomina U. Emeka-Iheukwa

EFL: What’s on the top of your mind right now?

I make it a priority right now to be able to provide safe healthy and delicious meals to my clients so together we can keep safe from this pandemic.

Could you please describe your favorite cooking technique?

I just love stir fry. Everything tastes delish that way.

Is there a recipe for home chefs that you’d like to share?

Chop up a medium-sized sweet potatoes into a sizzling skillet of moderate oil of choice (olive oil preferred) and add medium onions, cloves of chopped garlic as desired, season lightly with any seasoning of choice, add some herbs of choice and stir on medium heat until potatoes soften (but are not mushy). Add a cup of green peas, a handful each of chopped red bell peppers, carrots and greens of choice. Add pinch of salt of choice to taste and add juice from a navel orange. Stir briefly and serve hot or cold! Yummy!
(Makes 2 adult servings or 3 kid’s servings)

Celebrating Local Chefs is a weekly column that aims to recognize the work, talent, and commitment Finger Lakes farm-to-table chefs have for their craft and supporting local farms and the community! If you know a chef we should interview, please email shannon@ediblefingerlakes.com.

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