The chefs shaping African cuisine




African News Agency


AFRICAN cuisine is splashed with a complex array of influences, ingredients, and inspirations. But, as with much of history, the contributions of some groups are under-appreciated, or overlooked. In honour of Africa Month, we look at some of the chefs who are shaping the narrative of African cuisine. Africa’s contemporary chefs need no wordy introduction. You have probably heard of Bertus Basson or Zola Nene, but here are six other chefs you may not know, and definitely should – big names in the game that help shape African cuisine. Mokgadi Itsweng Raised in Mamelodi in Pretoria, Itsweng studied law, then advertising. But it was while working a catering job, as a side hustle, that she realised her true passion. Following her dreams, Itsweng packed her bags and escaped to New York, where she worked at the legendary South African restaurant Madiba, in Brooklyn, and studied at Peter Kump’s cooking school. She returned to Johannesburg in 2001 and cut her teeth as a chef, ultimately opening her own restaurant, Lotsha Kitchen and Cocktails, four years later. Itsweng has recently released a cookbook, Veggielicious, in which she has reworked South African recipes with plant-forward passion. She describes it as a “plant-based offering from the garden of my dreams”. Raphael King’ori Born in Kenya, King’ori grew up fascinated by how simple ingredients turned into great meals in his mother’s kitchen. After high school, he signed up at the renowned Kenya Utalii College in Nairobi, and interned at the Carnivore Restaurant in Kenya and, from there, never looked back. Chef Raphael loves to share knowledge on all matters food. This led him to publish recipes on social media, through his now popular step-by-step images and videos on recipes. His greatest strength is curating “home-made food” recipes, using locally available products and ingredients. Vusi Ndlovu Ndlovu gained local and international recognition when he ranked among the top seven at the San Pellegrino Young Chef finale in 2018. He now co-owns an establishment called Edge Restaurant. With a focus on underutilised ingredients and recipes passed down over generations, the restaurant is a holistic celebration of Africa. The menu, conceptualised by him and inspired by his own heritage, is an ever-changing curation of dishes that highlight indigenous ingredients, reimagined in a contemporary, minimalist, and respectful way. These dishes pay homage to Ndlovu’s past experience and curiosity, as well as the rich history of Africa. Dieuveil Malonga Malonga is a Congo-born, Rwandabased chef and entrepreneur. Malonga specialises in Afro-fusion cuisine, a culinary art he describes as “a subtle blend of tradition and modernity” (a culinary bridge between African flavours and Western cuisine). At just 13 years, Malonga’s fortune took him to Germany where he was warmly welcomed. There began a new life and also a very different one. Cooking and music soon became his tools of choice to express himself. Lillian Elidah Lillian Elidah is a Zambian chef who is a graduate of the César Ritz Culinary Arts Academy in Switzerland, and now owns and runs her restaurant Twaala in Lusaka, Zambia. Twaala Restaurant is a modern fusion restaurant that radiates customised vibrant decor and atmosphere, with an everyday mission to serve beyond the boundaries of taste. Twaala Restaurant is founded on the basis of great food, extraordinary decor, and gourmet culinary skills. Elidah says that in its intimate and exclusive hall, they aim to grow into a brand and an experience that goes beyond the boundaries of your ordinary culinary experience. Mick Élysée Mick Élysée is a London-based chef, specialising in Congolese-French and African food. Élysée’s love for the culinary arts started when he was very young, in his home country of Congo. Now he is a reference in the field of gastronomy in the UK. In 2018, Mick joined the Smart Food campaign and contributed two millet and sorghum-based recipes that he is now promoting through various channels. He says he is an artist and a chef, and diversity is what makes his art interesting.