World Chef Day: Celebrating the Passion and Innovation of Women Chefs

by Joseph Omoniyi
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Africa’s female chefs are igniting the culinary scene with their passion for food, innovative techniques, recipes, and rich traditions. On this World Chef Day, we celebrate the remarkable contributions of three African women chefs whose culinary prowess transcends borders and cultures.

1. Chef Fatima Abiola – Nestled in the heart of Lagos, Chef Fatima Abiola’s restaurant, “Savory Essence,” is a statue of her undying passion for culinary innovation. From a young age, she was captivated by the enchanting aromas wafting from her grandmother’s kitchen, igniting a spark that would one day turn her into a culinary maven.

Chef Fatima’s approach to cooking is an exquisite fusion of tradition and modernity. She takes inspiration from Nigeria’s diverse culture and rich culinary heritage, infusing traditional dishes with contemporary twists. One of her signature creations is the “Jollof Sushi” – a blend of the beloved Nigerian Jollof rice and Japanese sushi techniques. This innovative dish has won the hearts and palates of food enthusiasts worldwide.

She attributes her success to her undying attraction to quality and her mission to elevate Nigerian cuisine on the global stage. “Food is a reflection of who we are, where we come from, and our dreams for the future,” Chef Fatima shares. Her passion for preserving and promoting the essence of African flavors resonates in every dish she creates.

2. Chef Amina N’Diaye ‘s restaurant, “Teranga Delights,” is a gastronomic journey through the vibrant flavors of Senegal. Amina’s journey into the world of food was a tribute to her grandmother, who taught her the art of making “Thiéboudienne,” Senegal’s national dish.

Chef Amina’s culinary philosophy revolves around preserving Senegal’s rich culinary heritage while exploring new frontiers. She is renowned for her innovative techniques in combining traditional Senegalese ingredients with global influences. Her “Yassa Tacos,” which incorporate the tangy Yassa sauce in a Mexican taco, have garnered international acclaim.

Amina emphasizes that her passion for food is rooted in the power of sharing and the unifying nature of a great meal. “Food is a language that transcends borders,” she says. “It tells stories, and it connects people, allowing us to appreciate our similarities and celebrate our differences.”

4. Salam Dakkak, the chef-owner of Bait Maryam in Dubai, is the recipient of the Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef 2023, sponsored by Nespresso Professional accolade, recognising her pioneering work in creating a community-focused restaurant that unites people beyond borders through perfectly executed family recipes. Claudia de Brito tells her inspiring story

Initially putting her culinary ambitions on hold to raise a family across the globe as a trailing spouse, Salam Dakkak had faith that her time would eventually come.

Dakkak was born in Palestine and grew up in Jordan before moving to Saudi Arabia as a young woman. While living in Saudi, she met her husband, settled down and had children. A few years later came a relocation to the US followed by a move to the UAE, where Dakkak’s husband was setting up a business.

Sensing that the UAE would be their base for the foreseeable future, Dakkak felt it was the right time for her to do what had been in the back of her mind for many years. “My dream has always been to become a chef,” she says. “I taught Arabic cuisine in a cooking studio when I lived in Saudi Arabia. I then began a career, but had to put it on hold as I moved to the United States.”

Dakkak opened Bait Maryam in Dubai’s residential Jumeirah Lake Towers district in 2017. ‘Bait’ means home in Arabic, while Maryam is a tribute to the chef’s mother and inspiration behind the restaurant. Touches of home are everywhere, from the wooden tables, vintage crockery and traditional ceramic tiles to the warm, familial service and – of course – the food.

These three remarkable African women chefs, Chef Fatima Abiola, Chef Amina N’Diaye, and Chef Kwanele Mabaso, have not only kindled a revolution in the world of culinary arts but have also exemplified how food can be a potent medium for preserving tradition, igniting innovation, and fostering unity. Their passion for food transcends the confines of their kitchens, leaving an indelible mark on the global culinary landscape. This World Chef Day, let’s savor the delightful creations of these culinary maestros and celebrate the rich tapestry of flavors that Africa has to offer.

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