kitchen tour with chef Olivia de Souza – Jeune Afrique

From Tours, France, to her hometown of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and as far as Lomé, Togo – her country of origin, where she opened “L’Atelier des sens” in 2011 – Olivia de Souza lives off this passion that is cooking. In his establishment, located in the smart district of Stars, not far from Fréau Jardin, in Lomé, there is no menu. Meals are ordered either the day before to be eaten on site, around a table d’hôtes with fifteen covers, or delivered, at home or at work. “I cook according to my customers’ wishes and not according to food regulations, and therefore my fridge is empty when I do not have reservations,” she confides.

Healthy diet

Olivia de Souza’s love of tasty food goes back to her childhood. First in the family circle, then in France, where she arrived in 1989 to take two years of study at Grandmont High School in Tours, concluding with a G2 bachelor’s degree before applying to a BTS in tourism and trade.

While studying, she offered her classmates dishes to support herself. This enabled her to create a network very early on and pave the way for the financial independence she had always dreamed of. “I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I did not know it would be in the kitchen, which has become my whole life and my passion,” she glides.

At the age of 50, of whom twenty-five are devoted to her art, the chef defines herself as a traveling chef who likes to offer tables d’hôtes in African capitals. Following Abidjan, Libreville, Dakar, Accra and Cotonou, it is preparing to promote its know-how during the month of May in Brazzaville.

To his own recipes, spiced with a mix of local spices, classic dishes are added to satisfy a diverse clientele. Bean pancakes (called “kpédjigaou” in Togo), tomato-onion-cucumber salad, yam parmentier, fish or vegetable-yassa … The authenticity of his cuisine makes an impression.

Wangash confit with coconut oil, phonio dishes, djenkoumé, alèlè …

It’s hard to pass up her establishment without tasting the candied wangash with coconut oil, presented in a small bottle delivered for 3,500 CFA francs (5.30 euros), or phonio dishes that she usually mixes with sesame seeds. In Togo, as in France, she likes to serve djenkoumé, a family dish made from cornmeal, which she calls “Togolese polenta”. Or alèlè, very popular in Benin, which is often eaten with chili juice.

Taste of sharing

Olivia de Souza is passionate about reading and spends her free time cultivating and sharing her knowledge. Its “Atelier des sens”, in Lomé, where about thirty people – young or old – have been educated, is also a library. Recipe books and books on social life, written by contemporary authors, are available to guests.

In the locality Djagblé, about ten kilometers north of the capital, she is investing in opening a professional training center in cooking and culinary coaching, where people will be taught how to cook and eat healthy. Olivia often participates in festivals and cooking shows, on Canal + and on local TV channels.

Through the ingredients she uses, she is the embodiment of African cuisine. “

She will once again take part in this exercise from 10 to 15 May in Lomé, together with a dozen chefs, gathered for the Festival La Marmite (Fesma), for which she is the godmother. Among them: Cameroonian Christian Abégan, expert in gastronomy strategy and food security; train student Pépin Kwami Kunkel, designer of Plate’s Fooding; chef Lopez Ahligo and Senegalese Sadibou Sow, head chef at Hôtel 2-Février, in Lomé.

For promoter Jean-Paul Agboh Ahouélété, Olivia de Souza was chosen as the godmother of this event because she is “the embodiment of African cuisine through the ingredients she uses and the dishes she puts together”. “They are in harmony with new food methods and with the improvement of local products that our festival wants to promote,” he explains. Through Olivia, it’s a matter of celebrating “all the African women who make their families happy every day thanks to the meals they prepare”, “all the women and all the men who are in the maquis or next to the road, has fed and still feeds generations of Africans ”, continues Agboh Ahouélété.

On the program for Fesma, which is expected to have about two hundred participants (restaurant owners, producers, actors in the food sector, industrialists): conferences on gastronomy and contemporary issues, masterclasses, coaching sessions, awareness meetings and exchange of experience between chefs and students.

@ fesma2022

The 1st edition of Festival La Marmite #FESMA is on its way .. See you in Lomé from 10 to 15 May 2022 # togolais228🇹🇬 #cuisinetiktok @rfi @cheflopezavolonte @ hotel2fevrier

♬ Ahoe – Little poppy

Lovers of good food will enjoy the culinary fair with local products and the tasting room. With the ambition to promote local and African values ​​and traditions, Fesma, placed under the patronage of Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, will also put catering and cooking schools in competition. The teams must, among other things, prepare a dish from a basket and arrange a buffet according to a free program.

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