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Game Changing African Chefs Cooking for the World's Palate

As the world’s palate expands, African chefs from across the continent have created spaces to elevate the conversation around African cuisine. From Kachumbari to cassava, these five chefs are leading the charge in challenging the norms of what it means to serve a gourmet meal.

1. Chef Joseph Maina

Joseph Maina

Senior sous chef at Nairobi Safari Club, Chef Joseph Maina of Kenya dreams of kitchens fully stocked with black pepper and garlic and prefers his green tea to coffee. Best known for his steaks, Chef Joseph won first place in the International Category of the first ever Supreme Chefs 254 Challenge earlier this year.  His favorite dish to make is Mbuzi Choma (roasted goat meat) and Kachumbari, which is a fresh tomato and onion salad.

2. Chef Tunde Wey

When he ventured to America from Lagos at the age of 16, Chef Tunde Wey originally dreamed of becoming a scientist. Today, he is a conceptual restaurateur. He opened his first restaurant Revolver in Detroit in 2013. Revolver boasts a rotating roster of new and famous chefs from around the world. His most recent endeavor, Lagos, is a culinary tour hosting pop-up dinners. So far, Chef Wey has visited Chicago, Buffalo, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City. He aims to bring traditional Nigerian dishes such as pepper soup, fish with pepper sauce, and jollof rice. The most recent stop in the Lagos tour was New Orleans, where he currently resides.

3. Chef Charlene Rumbidzai Shoko

If it’s food from Zimbabwe that you crave, look no further than Chef Charlene Rumbidzai Shoko and Noticing a lack of cooking tips for the dishes she loves, “Rumbi” launched Zimbo Kitchen. There, she shares a repository of Zimbabwean and international recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother. Her site motto is “easy to follow, simple, lip smacking cooking and baking recipes made by a Zimbabwean foodie.” Her website has earned widespread accolades. In 2014, the ZOL StartUp Challenge organizers recognized ZimboKitchen by offering a judging position in the 2014 edition of the competition for the first time. When asked about her favorite dish, the go-tos are: Sadza, a thickened porridge served at most meals with vegetables and stew and Nhedzi, a wild mushroom soup.

4. Chef Michaela Matera

Chef Michael Matera’s story is as intriguing as any. Looking for work in Tanzania to help his family, he found a job at the Singita Sabora Tented Camp. First, he worked as a grounds keeper, but he soon switched to helping in the staff kitchen at the request of a supervisor. After learning the basic skills, of cooking, Maters bloomed in the kitchen; learning dishes and techniques from across the world. When he won the Tanzanian Chef of the Year Award in 2012, Matera, attributed his success to hard work and an insatiable willingness to learn. Today, Chef Michael is the Senior Sous Chef at the Singita Sasakwa Lodge in Tanzania. When asked about his favorite ingredient, Chef suggests we look no further than the cassava. Cassava is a woody shrub with a starchy root. Very closely resembling a sweet potato.

5. Chef Zoe Adjonyoh

What started, as research for a book became Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen in London? A 2nd generation Ghanaian living in London, Chef Zoe Adjonyoh remembers feeling disconnected from her heritage growing up. When her father gave her first and only cooking lesson at age 10, Adjonyoh could barely see over the pot. Her questions about ingredients and spices went unanswered. As she got older, she learned from the “aunties” in London’s vibrant Ghanaian community, but still didn’t feel the connection she desired. It wasn’t until 2011 during a MA program, that Zoe dove head first into the dishes that eluded her.  Her buzzing kitchen serves tasty treats like fried chicken and plantain fries, “red red” (bean stew) and groundnut soup.  “Half of the problem is,” Adjonyoh thinks, the very concept of  ‘African food.’ I hate saying ‘African food’ because we know it’s not one country, it’s a continent.”

From the Horn of Africa, to the Ivory Coast, food is an identifying staple of the numerous culture of the continent. By establishing themselves and reclaiming their roots, these chefs are redefining what it means to be an “African Chef.”

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