FRENCH-IVORIAN chef and restaurant owner Loïc Dablé is on a mission to change the perception of African cuisine one contemporary dish at a time.
During a recent visit to Cape Town as part of his African Food tour, Dablé hosted a private dinner at the V&A Waterfront to pay tribute to African traditions through a unique food and art pairing.
Dablé says he was surprised and disappointed at the lack of African food and restaurants in Cape Town and Joburg, the two cities he visited while in South Africa.
He say “a lot of work needs to be done” to educate Africans about the importance of promoting and enjoying home-grown products.
The 32-year-old chef and owner of Cafe Dapper at the Musée Dapper, an African art restaurant, in Paris, France, says he wants to share his contemporary vision of African food, and highlight the influences history has had on African cuisine.
“We don’t have to be ashamed of our traditions,” he said, with his wife, Karmelle Biyot interpreting.
“African cuisine is as beautiful and important as French, Japanese and any other cuisine.”
Dablé says it is important to promote local cuisine because it is to hard to find in some parts of the continent.
He says pap is just a small portion of what is regarded as African food.
“In this country (South Africa) people eat pap but that is just a small part of this culture,” he says.
“When we ask black South Africans about the traditional food in South Africa, they say porridge, maize, flour and that’s it.
“But (this is) weird because there is the Khoisan, the Zulus and all the other cultures. There must be something people used to eat before?
“We used to have our local culinary identity and our mission is to find out this culinary identity.
“I want to promote African products and culture and tradition; it is very important. If we don’t look at what we used to eat, then everything is going to be lost and we will be losing our cuisines and traditions and… it’s a part of our history.”
Dablé says he finds, throughout the continent, African cuisine is either badly perceived - or there was a lack of it.
“Like here (in Cape Town) it is very difficult to get African cuisine… In other countries, except
Nigeria and Zimbabwe, it is very difficult to find traditional South African cuisine and we have not seen any contemporary vision for African cuisine.
“The work has not been done yet for modernising or appreciating African food.
“(There is also) historical influences, because of colonisation, apartheid and other things, making it harder for us to promote our cuisine and to make it evolve.
“The evolution does not mean you have to erase everything and that you have to be ashamed of what exists or what is traditional.
“There is a lot of talking but we have to go beyond words and African culture has to be reincarnated, but in its real way.”