- Black-Eyed Pea Salad
- Abala (Black-Eyed Pea Puree with Eggplant Grilled in Banana Leaves)
- Black-Eyed Pea Fritters with Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce
- Coconut Rice Pudding with Honeyed Mango
- Pierre Prepping (Black-Eyed) Peas
- Accara - Black Eye Pea Fritters on a bed of their main ingredient.
My Cooking Style
Vibrant West African food with Portuguese-French-Vietnamese influences.
I believe in keeping Senegalese food current and approachable to the times. When people think of African food, they often think of scarcity and hunger. But that is not all true. I want to share the abundance of African flavors that are rich, fresh, and flavorful--the abundance that is our cuisine. Let's Yolele! or as we say, "to celebrate," in my native Wolof. (also the title of my Senegalese cookbook which was nominated for a Julia Child)
The histories of ingredients dominant in Senegalese cuisine are important to me. The fact that black eyed peas made it to America because of the slave trade and that palm oil was monetized upon during the same era, should not be forgotten. This is why I include these ingredients in my food. Because our cuisine represents our history; no matter how devastating or beautiful.
The Vietnamese influences in Senegalese cuisine stem from French Colonialism---when the Senegalese Batallion was sent to Vietnam, years later returning with their Vietnamese counterparts. Also part of our cuisine is our usage of fermented ingredients and typically discarded plant parts---making Senegalese cuisine slow food without trying.
In NYC, I produce this food with homage to my surroundings. I use quality local ingredients as well as flavors from Senegal available in Manhattan's West African Markets.
Here's a snippet of the restaurants/festivals I used to run. But now, I've shifted my focus to awareness on Senegal Cuisine and opportunites that give me a chance to spread the culture instead of spending my time in one kitchen. --> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPAp1gDXTrM
My Culinary Experience
The last thing I thought I would do in America was be a chef. While I always had my passion for cooking, I left Senegal with a Physics and Chemistry Degree. Growing up, the only man I had ever known to be in the kitchen was my Vietnamese Grandfather--otherwise it was always women who were involved. Now that I think about it, my mother had a huge role in my interest in cooking. I have brief memories going through her cookbook collection when I was younger--while all the other boys played outdoors.
Professionally, I started cooking in '89 at Garvins, an American restaurant in the West Village. I went on to work at Jean Claude Bistro and Boom in Soho. I helped open their South Beach location and it is from there when I went from Line Cook to Chef de Cuisine. Returning to NYC, I went on to open two Senegalese restaurants in Brooklyn--Yolele in Clinton Hill and Le Grand Dakar in Bed Stuy. The response to my Senegalese cuisine was heartwarming. Le Grand Dakar became the center of West African activities in the city and led me to organize an annual block party--the "Spirit of Africa and the Soul of Brooklyn."
Not wanting to spend all my time in the kitchen though, I've since participated in various festivals and programming around the world. I've had the opportunity to throwdown with Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America to cooking for a Pop-Up restaurant in Cuba with Proyecto Palladar. Next in 2013, I will be taking some NYC chefs to my Senegal to introduce to them various Senegalese ingredients and culinary traditions on the cusp of being lost. Even in New York, it's been fun to spread awareness of Senegalese ingredients, including introducing the Fonio grain to Soba Chef Master, Kithano San in making Soba.
Whether it is my experience cooking at home with my kids and wife who grew up in Missouri, to teaching Senegalese cooking to students of all dietary restrictions, I have been able to explore the versatility of Senegalese Cuisine to palletes of all backgrounds.
My Three Favorite Ingredients
Okra, Palm Fruit Oil - Rich in Beta Carotene and Fonio Grains
A Menu I Once Served 99 People
A Sample Menu I served to a large party
Field Greens Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Tamarind
Five Spices Roasted Duck with Sweet Potato and Black Eye Peas
Coconut Rice Pudding with Roasted Mango
My comfort foods
Soup de Ganja - Rich in Okra in Seafood stew
Served with Blaberema - Traditional West African rice which was planted in North Carolina
Black Eyed Peas - 3 Way Menu
Accara - BEP fritters
Moi Moi BEP paste wrapped in banana leaf with roasted eggplant
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Coconut Rice Pudding with Honeyed Mango
Abala (Black-Eyed Pea Puree with Eggplant Grilled in Banana Leaves)
Pierre Prepping (Black-Eyed) Peas
Accara - Black Eye Pea Fritters on a bed of their main ingredient.
Black-Eyed Pea Fritters with Scotch Bonnet Hot Sauce