With a career spanning more than 30 years, David Bozec is one of the best known French chefs on the international scene. He is passionate about Congolese cuisine and has been exploring this cosmopolitan cuisine for over 10 years. AFRIK.COM went to meet him.
AFRIK.COM: As a French chef, what is your connection with Congolese cuisine?
David Bozec : I have been passionate about Congolese cuisine for over 10 years. The beginning of this love goes back to 2012 during my first trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since then, I have been exploring it while providing my expertise in training fellow Congolese chefs. Congolese cuisine is full of flavours and has a range of delicate and tasty dishes. Its particularity comes from its different influences, which are its neighbouring countries, but also Belgian, French, Portuguese through the Kongo empire and Arab cuisine. It varies according to the regions, ethnic groups and eating habits of each country. Congolese cuisine is rich in fish, meat and vegetables. The most common side dishes are fufu (prepared with a starchy vegetable or flour), makemba (ripe or firm plantain), chikwange (cassava ball) and rice. One of the particularities of Congolese cuisine is that a dish is often served with several accompaniments so that everyone can make their choice. In this cuisine, as in most sub-African cuisines, the presence of starters at mealtimes is quite rare as the main courses tend to be hearty and very substantial.
What is your appreciation of Congolese cuisine after years of exploration?
Too fatty, too spicy, not sophisticated enough, Congolese and African cuisine still suffers from these many clichés. Long misunderstood or even neglected, African cuisine is experiencing a new craze, particularly thanks to street food and Afro-fusion. But beyond these seductive formulas for urbanites in a hurry, the African culinary continent is still struggling to make itself known.
David Bozec, Chef
For my part, it is not more fatty than the others. When you look at Mediterranean cuisines, there are many oils. Each culture has its own fats. You have to know that in France, we find good fats with butter, olive oil… but in Africa, I am thinking for example of seed sauce which is prepared with unrefined palm oil which is very rich in vitamin A. This unrefined oil, produced in a sustainable way, is very rich in vitamin A. This unrefined oil, produced sustainably and ethically, is more beneficial and is better for your health and the environment than the refined oils found in many shops in Europe.
Do you have any prospects for Congolese cuisine?
There are many prospects for this cuisine. The spread of the Coronavirus around the world has shaken up consumption habits and eating habits in an unprecedented way. Even if several consumer trends that existed before the crisis seem to remain relevant, or even gain in importance in the eyes of consumers, such as organic, plant-based and homemade food, it is nevertheless necessary to take into account all the factors that could influence tomorrow’s food choices and behaviour.
Discover a selection of recipes from the Congo
For food artisans, as for all other market players, these are avenues to consider and anticipate in order to better adapt to possible changes in food practices. In the Congo, it already exists, and the use of cassava leaves in African gastronomy is a perfect example: it takes knowledge and talent to cook with plants.
Cassava leaves are a very popular foodstuff in your country. One of the country’s traditional dishes uses it as the main ingredient. This is saka-saka. Vegetables are already at the heart of food in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whereas in Europe the food trend is becoming a permanent fixture in our meals and is taking up more and more space on our plates. Another perspective is based on the training of young people. For some years now, there have been global partnerships for education. This is a unique opportunity to increase mobilisation and international aid for education around cooking.
For information, France already participates in this type of event, it has a singular experience in education that it wishes to share. But I would like to take advantage of these few lines to say that the future challenges are still colossal and I would like to thank the different educational communities who do their utmost every day, it is in our common interest to go even further to move to the next level, in the service of the students and your youth.
Read: Who is Gisèle Mbeku, the Congolese woman who makes African cuisine shine on social networks