Earlier this month, world-class Cameroonian and American chefs came together in Mouanko, a coastal town in the Littoral Region of the country, to launch the project Diaspora Kitchen, a celebration of Cameroonian culture and heritage, with a strong focus on the country’s culinary traditions.
The Diaspora Kitchen project was started by the Generations Partners of Progress (GPP) based in Yaoundé in partnership with the American-based African Investment Corporation (AiC) to help protect Cameroon’s culinary heritage and instill respect and love for traditional food.
Cameroonian chef and gastronomy strategy and food security expert Christian Abegan says, “Cameroon is a blessed country for food products. In this wonderful country, you have the sea, you have the north with the desert, then you have the centre, which is like a forest. Cameroonian food is so diversified that most of our recipes and food are also found across the continent. Cameroonian cuisine is very special, and that’s why I’ve devoted myself to food security and the transformation of African products. I’m always proposing new flavours, searching for daring mixtures and revisiting ancestral dishes. Every day I discover new contemporary approaches to African cuisine.”
Diaspora Kitchen’s Message of Importance
From March 9 – 10, chefs came together to engage in intercultural and intergenerational exchanges, learn about standardized Cameroonian culinary arts and train individuals in the industry. Diaspora Kitchen also included a festival featuring an array of traditional foods, exhibitions, storytelling, poetry, workshops, a symposium and a market.
In addition to Abegan, other Cameroonian chefs participating in Diaspora Kitchen’s inaugural event include Emile Engoulou, Antoine Belinga, Armand Ewolo, Sandrine Ebogo, Rose Lore Lissouck, Bernadette Ngali, Blasius Khan, Simon Pierre Bimai and Eric Medjo.
Joining in solidarity and support of Diaspora Kitchen’s mission from the United States was culinary historian Michael Twitty along with chefs Mashama Bailey, Erik Williams, David Thomas, Benjamin Dennis, Kenyatta Ashford, Ashleigh Shanti, Ederique Goudia, Jermond Booze, Adrian Lipscomb, Roshara Sanders, Anthony Jones, Devon Hamilton, Curtis Renee and Josmine Evans. The cross-cultural exchange with the American chefs was coordinated in partnership with Ada Anagho Brown of Roots to Glory Tours.
GGP president and former Minister of Culture Ama Tutu Muna says, “This unprecedented initiative has been supported by the government and private sponsors. We need to draw from generational wisdom and work together to preserve Cameroon’s culinary heritage so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
A first of its kind, the Diaspora Kitchen’s goal is to take Cameroon’s traditional food to a global audience. Chef Belinga who is the executive chef at Sheraton Djibouti Hotel, adds to its importance, saying, “Keeping culture is very important as we need to share this with future generations. Passing on our heritage and culture must start at home with parents cooking local food so that children will grow up with local food tastes and keep their culinary heritage. Putting our traditional tastes first above other cultures is a responsibility we all share. We must be ambassadors for the Cameroonian culture and promote our food and dishes.”
Learn more about the Diaspora Kitchen project and its future plans at Diasporas Kitchen and on Instagram.