ATA African Culinary Experience

22 May

ATA Congress delegates were treated to an exciting and delicious experience today at the first ever ‘ATA African Culinary Experience’. As the delegates entered the dining room, they washed their hands, as is customary in Zimbabwean culture. Then, they were treated to an African feast prepared collaboratively by Zimbabwean culinary students from the Bulawayo School of Hospitality and  Tourism Studies and  chefs from Victoria Falls, along with guest chefs Pierre Thiam and Eric Simeon.

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Delegates washing their hands in preparation for the feast

Chef Thiam is the author of Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal; he also has his own catering company in New York (http://pierrethiam.com/).  Chef Simeon is the Executive Chef at E&E Grill House in Times Square (http://www.eegrillhouse.com/). They also spent time speaking to the Zimbabwean chefs exchanging ideas on ingredients and culinary innovation. Chef Simeon actually had the opportunity to visit local markets and organic farms with the local chefs to learn more about local ingredients and food processes.

Chef Eric Simeone with a local Zimbabwean Chef

Chef Thiam enjoying a local beverage

Dishes included cows hooves, sadza (thick corn porridge), rice, goat, whole bream fish, visashi  (green vegetable and pounded fresh groundnut), kapenta (small dried fried fish), mopani (worm, a local delicacy) and fresh local vegetables.

Zimbabwean chefs preparing food in the kitchen

Whole bream fish

Cow’s hooves

Honorable T. Mathuthu, Governor and Resident Minister of Matapeleland, North Province enjoying the feast with the delegates

ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman enjoying his plate of Zimbabwean food

Fresh local fruit for dessert

Delegates enjoying their meal

The US chefs prepared two dishes: chopped bean salad and crocodile ceviche. They also spent time speaking to the Zimbabwean chefs exchanging ideas on ingredients and culinary innovation.

Chopped bean salad

Crocodile Cerviche

Over lunch and with the rolling hills of the hotel and the mist of the mighty Victoria Falls as a backdrop, the delegates’ attention was drawn to the ‘Iron Chef’-inspired, first ever ATA African Culinary Experience Competition. Two teams of culinary students were presented with a challenge, explained by Chef Pierre Thiam: “to be as creative as possible and reinvent Zimbabwean cuisine”. Team A (Simba and Wayland) and Team B (Jabilon and Chiedza) were given 30 minutes each to prepare their dishes.

Team A prepared warthog chops, with peanut butter rice and locally grown chimonya (green vegetables). For dessert, they prepared pumpkin and baobob cream moose.

Team A’s finished dish

Team B prepared a mopani worm kebab appetizer and roasted warthog, millet sadza, butternut squash and local greens as a main dish. For dessert, they prepared African cucumber and melon.

Team B discussing their dish with Chef Eric Simeone

Team B’s finished dish

The competition was judged by Chefs Thiam and Simeon, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles A. Ray, Dr. Nancy Scanlon from Florida International University, Chef Christopher Gonzo, the Chief Executive of the Zimbabwean Culinary Association and Chef Johnson, Chief Technical Coordinator of the Zimbabwean Tourism Authority. Teams were judged on three categories: presentation, creativity and taste.

The judging process

Following the lunch and demonstration, the delegates returned to the conference room for the announcement of the winning team: Team B. Chef Thiam said that the reason team B won was their use of local and ‘risky’ ingredients and the fact that they had three courses.

The panel of contestants, Zimbabwean chefs and US Chefs awaiting the announcement of the winning team

Accepting the honor of being named ATA’s first Culinary Experience Champions, Jabilon and Chiedza expressed their thanks to ATA and the Zimbabwe Tourist Authority for giving them the opportunity to work so closely with such renowned chefs. Chiedza said that “since we are finishing school so soon, this experience and has given me the confidence to pursue my dreams”. Jabilon remarked that he will be the “envy of all of his classmates at culinary school” and that this was an “experience that I will never forget”.

Team B accepting their round of applause for winning the competition

Chef Thiam said that today’s experience was a “dream come true” for himself and for African cuisine.

Chef Simeon thanked the Zimbabwe chefs who he says taught him a lot about African ingredients. He said that  “working together, with more events like these, we can really put Zimbabwean cuisine on the map”.

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One Response to “ATA African Culinary Experience”

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  1. NICE: Namibia’s Rising Culinary Stars « Zoi Calomiris - October 2, 2012

    […] chefs and culinary students as well as Zimbabwe’s local cuisine.  To learn more, check out this blog entry from the congress which includes the “Iron Chef” competition featuring Zimbabwean culinary […]

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