Foundational recipes are becoming increasingly important in both restaurant and home kitchens across West Africa, as the tides of decolonization inspire a revival of historical recognition within the food industry.
Chefs like Fatmata Binta, who operates Ghana’s Fulani Kitchen, Senegalese celebrity chef Pierre Thiam, and the Gambia’s Ousman Manneh are setting the pace for this culinary reckoning.
Ousman, who presides over Kololi’s Luna Lounge, one of the Gambia’s top restaurants, says high tourist traffic makes decolonization especially important, as foreigners’ tastes for familiar food threaten to supersede local offerings.
“If we are to move forward as a people—as a continent—our food has to be localized,” Ousman tells me over a steaming pot of his homemade benachin.
“Ninety percent of our food is coming from outside—Europe, North America, even New Zealand. Chefs and restaurants must take the lead to empower the African farmer.”