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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Meet the man hoping to create Africa’s first Michelin-starred restaurant

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Not a single Michelin-starred restaurant specialising in African cuisine can be found on that continent.

But this may soon change thanks to the craft of chefs like Daniel Malonga.

A rising star in the culinary world, Malonga is hoping to draw more attention to the diversity of food on offer across Africa.

From his travels in 38 African countries, the 30-year-old chef brings back techniques, such as smoking and fermentation, but also traditional spices and condiments.

Small peppers from Côte d’Ivoire, pèbè nuts from Cameroon and other ingredients like mbinzo caterpillars from the Congo occupy an entire wall of his restaurant.

The chef, who has taken his travels further afield, through Germany and France, draws on these experiences to create his ‘Afro-fusion’ cuisine.

“I travel to different countries, I learn from grandmothers and then I take these old recipes and I bring them to my laboratory here and I try, with my chefs, to bring a touch of modernity there,” he explains.

Blending African and European gastronomy

Dieuveil Malonga was born near Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo, where, despite the death of his parents, he lived ‘a very happy childhood within a very united community’, underlines his website.

At 13, he was welcomed in Germany into the family of a pastor and joined a renowned cooking school in Münster.

Graduated and noticed during competitions, he worked in several German restaurants, including the triple Michelin-starred Aqua in Wolfsburg, then in France, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Marseille.

But something felt “missing” for Malonga, so he left Europe to travel for all over Africa.

In 2020, he opened his restaurant ‘Meza Malonga’, located in the capital of Rwanda, Kigali.

The ‘Malonga table’ attracts a clientele of affluent locals, expatriates and tourists – for a total bill of around 130 euros.

The 10-course menu includes sweet potato marinated tuna, cassava powdered shrimp and coffee espuma with peanut crumble.

Passionate about products, the chef likes to wander the alleys of the Nyamata farm, an hour from Kigali, where he stocks up on aromatic herbs and edible flowers.

The chef wants to ‘create something big’ with his next venture

“Something is happening now in Africa, and people are interested in knowing more about African cuisine”, assures Malonga.

By 2023, the chef wants to go “higher, create something big” by opening a new restaurant in the very rural region of Musanza, North Rwanda, at the foot of the Virunga volcanoes and their famous gorillas.

More upscale, more expensive, the second Meza Malonga will be both “an experience” and a “village of culinary innovation”, where most of the food will be produced on site, but also a training center.

Malonga believes that African cuisine is often reduced by outsiders to a minimal number of dishes such as rice, maffe and yassa.

“There is immense diversity. Take the example of Nigeria (…) in one day you can eat more than 20” types of food.

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