• Promote African food art and convey its passion

Promote African food art and convey its passion

By Chief Loïc Dablé *

 

To promote Africa and its Diaspora’s food art, I have decided to initiate an international tour to promote African food: “The African Food Art Tour.” During this tour, I propose cooking experiences combining art and African food. This takes the form of ephemeral restaurants, cooking training, master class or private dinners throughout the world. The starting point of this tour was Ouidah, in Benin, within the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Zinsou Foundation. This place was not chosen by chance. Actually, the city of Ouidah used to be one of the main slave embarkation points towards America. Based on a Unesco project entitled “The Slave Route: Resistance, Freedom, and Legacy”, this tour marks the same roads to highlight the links between African food and that of its Diaspora.

 

African food is one of the oldest foods in the world and today, it remains the most unknown. Yet, it used to influence food around the world. Soul food, some Brazilian dishes, or West Indies’ food, have many vestiges of African food. Despite this, they are still too marginal in the world – and even sometimes in Africa! The most popular hotels-restaurants in the continent often offer international, French, Italian and even Japanese food. Only few VIP hotels-restaurants offer African or pan-African food, whether in terms of cooking creations or table arts. However, some investors should be encouraged to try to showcase the diversity of local food…

“Passion and training: the two key factors”

Therefore, it is important for me to promote African food in this context. My initiative is far from singular. I want to pay tribute to our mothers, these great forgotten women who have tried to perpetuate their grandmothers’ traditions with love and passion. I say “try” for as African traditions are often oral, many food recipes, dishes and cultures are lost in Africa, and even more for its Diaspora. In addition to our mothers, it is important to encourage the chiefs and their brigades, restaurant holders, producers, craftsmen – and more broadly the associations, tourism organizations and some ministries – which have worked for years to safeguard and promote our food art. It is about the preservation of our history in its diversity, our know-how, our customs and traditions.

During the tour, I also had the chance to meet professionals who shared my passion. I got a lot of messages of support and encouragement from young and old people who want to experience it. More than a passion, we are now talking about vocations. So I’m trying to visit as many high schools specializing in hotel industry as possible. It’s always interesting to discuss with students about orientation, programs … and they ask me a lot of questions about my experience.

“We need to build the schools of tomorrow”

Here, I become even more aware of the responsibility that we, entrepreneurs, have in our environment. I understand those of us who consider that it is the responsibility of the private sector to take over from the government when their action is insufficient, inadequate or sometimes non-existing. I see, on the spot, the crying need for training, both from students and professionals. If we can only encourage the existing initiatives, the use of obsolete equipment in restaurant schools in Africa is often inadequate. Recurrent failures or obsolete equipment, bad habits or professional deformation, the professionals of the sector in Africa are sometimes reluctant to recruit poorly “trained” young people, even after just completing their training.

Henceforth, the only recruitment criterion remains the same: passion, that of the job, the love of work, humility to review the basics and accept that, sometimes, one spent time learning incorrect or poor gestures. That is why I want to create this school of tomorrow and call for the responsibility of future private and public partners to help me set up this school. A food art school that would be set up thanks to the true sense of social and environmental responsibility in Africa, which is sometimes much more confined to a marketing argument rather than a reality. The need is all the more worrying as some professionals are obliged to resort to expatriates… This situation seems unlikely with regard to the unemployment of young people in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is regrettable that, with the flourishing tourism and hotel industry development and many other sectors, our countries are still unable to provide appropriate food art training to the African youth!

 

* Loic Dablé is the Chief of contemporary African food, member of jury of the TV program ‘Pan-African Star Chief’, and initiator of the international tour « African Food Art Tour. »


 

Author: Loïc Dablé // Photo: Loïc Dablé © Ojoz

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