By Enock Bulonza - AFRIK.COM - August 30, 2021
African cuisine has its little secrets and little tricks that French chef David Bozec seems to have discovered. In this heart-to-heart exchange with AFRIK.COM around his perception of African cuisine, this enthusiast of the continent's gastronomy discusses the characteristics of this cuisine, which he has been exploring for more than 10 years.
What is your appreciation of Congolese cuisine after years of exploration?
Africa brings together 54 countries and each geographical area has different influences. When we study the history of African peoples, we see that the Bantu have moved around a lot and we therefore find their recipes almost everywhere in Central and West Africa. For example, mafé is prepared with meat in Senegal and fish in Gabon. Many people still confuse spicy with hot. In Africa, not everyone eats spicy food, not all recipes are spicy.
Often the chilli is presented separately, as a condiment. African cuisine rarely includes chillies and if you use it, it is added whole at the end of cooking so that it does not burst. At the time of service, tasting, the pepper is removed, which means that the dish is fragrant but not spicy. African cuisine is dominated by the use of spices and organic foods. The richness of this cuisine is organic. In Africa, nothing is industrialized, everything is natural. In African culture, spices ennoble the product. African gastronomy uses, among other things, peppers from Likouala, Makanisi, cinnamon, ginger, cumin with an African but also Arab influence.
Do you think that African cuisine will always keep its originality, faced with the modernization of gastronomy, marked, among other things, by foods from genetically modified organisms?
Eating healthier, having fun without depriving yourself: it's all about balance! Today, we all make the same observation that our modern diet is facing several problems, too much saturated fat, not enough fibre, lack of diversity... Eating habits are changing rapidly: we are entering the era of including, and Africa will come there in the years to come. More and more responsible consumers are opting for healthier, quality food with limited impact, all without being ready to compromise on taste. Plant-based food is a real alternative with a very complementary and therefore valuable offer in this search for balance.
Offering more and more choices, the vegetable market is no longer really consumed by food constraints (allergies, intolerances) but rather by the desire to vary the pleasures. Consuming more natural products is synonymous with well-being. Increasing plant-based foods in your diet is a good first step, as they are generally low in saturated fatty acids and high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Speaking of the values of African cuisine, do you think it is important to train the continent's youth in food trades?
This is a priority in my eyes, the training of young people is extremely important, it is she who represents the future of the continent. The training of this youth who thirst for integration and emancipation is essential to the development of the continent.
Faced with the boom in the hotel industry in Africa and the clear will of giants such as Accor, Marriott, Hilton, Radisson to name but a few, many training courses are emerging in many countries such as Senegal (the Thelma School of Magatte Diop), Côte d'Ivoire (the sector of the Yarani school of Mrs. Marie-Odile Cachia) etc… Recently in Congo under the leadership of Mrs. Paméla Landreville. Regarding catering, training exists and is being put in place to provide and accelerate the development of these structures on the continent, the skills needs are crippling. For example, in Senegal, there are already more than twenty hotel schools providing training in the trades and techniques of cooking, catering, reception or accommodation.
But we are still really far from the mark, concerning agricultural training, even if some initiatives are emerging, agri-food training and those related to other craft trades in general are non-existent, such as bakery, pastry, chocolate , butchery and fishmonger… These trades are not sidings, but do represent the future, they are among the oldest trades existing in the world, it is essential to accompany them to make their changes and that they are experiencing, before long, a renewed interest in young people.
Do not forget that these professions of local traders are part of the landscape of our daily lives, that they seem to us to be immutable. It would be interesting to organize webinars to introduce these food professions which are booming. Called retail food trades or artisanal catering trades, they are like many others, constantly evolving.
What is your outlook for African cuisine?
It's a dream, among other things. I would see myself being able to open several tables in Hotels in Africa in various countries such as Congo, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Djibouti, South Africa and many other countries or continents. From the idea that I have, no menu, the guests let themselves be carried away by a chef and his staff: "To be in control of the offer and the time: I choose the menu, the dishes come out at their best time and I control the atmosphere”.
A gustatory and artistic fantasy, for me, which traveled a long time before finding my mode of expression. Today, the whole world has an appetite for African cuisine, add to that techniques of French gastronomy, with on the menu information, training, support, follow-up for young people in order to give a chance to acquire the basics through various workshops to approach the future with serenity, with a professional, personal objective and by learning a real job.
Interview by Enock Bulonza - Original Article