London-based chef Paule-Odile Beke highlights her heritage with dining and delivery.
When you want that taste of home you’ve been accustomed to all your life, some of us search for places where we can get even a whiff of those foodie delights. Others cook. For chef Paule-Odile Beke, specializing in Afro-fusion cuisine and bringing her culinary heritage to her current home base in the United Kingdom was a no-brainer.
With very little representation in the London dining scene, she decided to establish her catering company Douceurs d’Ivoire (translating to sweetness of Ivory or Ivory sweetness) in 2012. With her work, she pays homage to not just her Ivorian background, but also the gastronomic offerings of the African continent as a whole. To that, she adds a fine twist of her French training and pinches of other cultural influences from her time growing up in different countries.
Wondering what her preparations would be? Read on.
The Possibilities Are Endless
“French traditional cuisine I know as I am trained in it. My culinary experience led me to cook other international cuisines, so I know Middle Eastern, Asian and European specialties,” the chef explains. “So why not use those techniques and experience to mix it my way with African products? My vision of Afro-fusion is that — using the ingredients and having techniques from African cooking paired with French but with my inspirations. The possibilities are endless.”
She offers Afro-fusion dinners and designs every experience around African culinary art to present from five-course (to more) fine-dining tasting menus with entertainment, such as traditional storytellers or griots. The meal includes an amuse-bouche, starter, main course with a pairing glass of wine, pre-dessert and dessert. The next such event is scheduled for October 10 in London and can accommodate 50 guests.
The sit-down affairs are held in different venues and even different cities, or at least, that was the case pre-COVID. Simply take a look at her event in Abidjan (capital of the Ivory Coast) to see how fun the experiences was. Events have also taken place in London and Paris. Plans for a Los Angeles edition were in the works but have to be delayed for now given the pandemic. But those challenges in her professional journey haven’t deterred Beke. This year, she started her delivery service in London.
- Bringing West African Cuisine to the West Coast with Afia Anabasua
- Chef Frank Anyangbe Seduces Berliner Appetites with Pan African Flair
“I want to make Afro-fusion cuisine well-known everywhere,” she shares. Essentially, Naelifood is the delivery arm of Douceurs D’Ivoire, bringing restaurant-quality, African-inspired food with a French touch right into your home. Flavorful, seasonal meals are cooked with care by none other than Beke herself. Additionally, she offers a home prep chef service using the freshest sourced products — she comes to your home once a week to prep for up to two meals a day.
Love For New Flavors
Some of the dishes that chef offers include tieboudienne from Senegal featuring rice, fish and vegetables seasoned with tamarind, okra and sorrel, among other ingredients. Another is m’gbota, a palm nut soup famous in the Ivory Coast and accompanied by plantain or yam fufu. Take a peek at her current menu online and you will be left yearning for one or more of these cultural staples.
Choose from chicken mafé (smoked chicken in peanut stew with green apple pickles and steamed rice) to crispy suya lamb (braised lamb confit served with couscous and black garlic butter) and fonio salad gabougouni (West African grain flavored with saffron and red sorrel served alongside chicken skewers and a vegetable salsa). There are options aplenty and Beke has quite a few recipes up her sleeve for the rotation to change up frequently.
Originally from Ivory Coast, Beke’s culinary influences started at a young age. Her father was an award-winning master rotisseur (at La Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs – an international gastronomic society founded in Paris) working for the Intercontinental Group in the Ivory Coast. Thanks to his professional journey, she lived in Israel, Belgium, Germany, Poland, and several other countries while growing up. “That’s what made me love travel and discover new flavors,” she shares about being raised in the hospitality environment.
Her mother was also a keen pastry maker who cooked well. But despite all the gastronomic inspiration surrounding her, Beke went to business school in Paris as was expected by family and earned a master’s in international business. She explored the corporate world for a bit, but the gourmand in her simply didn’t want to continue in that half-hearted manner. Because of her passion for the food business, she indulged in culinary on the side as a private chef in the French capital.
Planning For The Future
Armed with a culinary school certificate, Beke began working professionally in kitchens, quitting the corporate world to start her own business. She has worked on events such as the Roland Garros tennis championship and also for fine dining restaurants and five-star hotels. Some of her favorite ingredients to cook with include duck, red wine (she once made ice cream with red wine) and at the time of this interview, the trending item was aubergine (eggplant) flowers.
“The African way of cooking is slow cooking, so stew and sauce flavors are enhanced. I like that technique and also grilling and cooking sous vide,” she shares. Between her role as a doting single mom to her baby girl and skilled entrepreneur running the Afro-fusion dinners, private chef services and food delivery, one would think Beke wouldn’t have a moment to spare. Far from it, she is planning to open her restaurant in the future.
- Fulani Cuisine Takes the Stage on Culinary Africa’s Delectable Buffet
- When in Paris, Senegalese Chef Raoul Coly Tempts with Tastes of Africa
In fact, she almost signed onto a new space just before the worldwide lockdown was announced. Her long-term goal is to open an eco-lodge resort in her father’s village back in the Ivory Coast. She adds, “Between the sea and the lagoon, it’s quite a nice location. I just lost my mom last year and dad passed away years ago, so this is something I’d have wanted them to be proud of.”