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Dieuveil Malonga: 'Africa is my Source of Inspiration'

Dieuveil Malonga: 'Africa is my Source of Inspiration'

A chat with the Basque Culinary World Prize 2018 finalist increasing the global visibility of African cuisine and talent with his "Chefs in Africa" platform.

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Dieuveil Malonga is the young African chef making waves in Europe, bridging African flavours with Western Cuisine in his, Afro-fusion cooking.

Born in Congo Brazzaville, Malonga moved to Germany as a young teenager where his passion for cooking took root and has since seen him rise to fame appearing on TV's Top Chef  and championioning African chefs.

In 2016 Malonga set up the Chefs in Africa digital platform to highlight and promote culinary talent in Africa. The startup has since accumulated over 4000 African chefs connecting the continent's up and coming talent with a wider network of professional opportunities.

Malonga was also one of 10 global finalists for this year's prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize, nominated alongside the likes of Matt Orlando and Virgilio Martinez, for his contribution to making positive changes to society through gastronomy in his work with Chefs in Africa.

We have a chat to find out more about his style and what the world has yet to see from African chefs.

Do you remember the moment you decided to become a chef? What inspired you and what obstacles have you had to overcome to realise your dream?
My culinary vocation was a revelation for me. Although I've had a strong attachment to gastronomy since my childhood, the trigger finally came when I arrived in Germany. In my adoptive family, I felt a permanent need to feel useful, and for me cooking was the most sincere expression of my willingness to communicate with this world that had opened up to me.

Africa is my engine and my source of inspiration; its lush vegetation and cultural diversity pushed me to transcend myself. Getting off the beaten track of African cuisine and presenting it in another way was a real challenge. The path was long and rocky but we made this commitment because we are committed to leaving a legacy for future generations.

You’ve lived in both Africa and Europe. How has that influenced your cooking style and how would you describe your style?
Living with people from different places, of different nationalities, has created a spirit of fusion in me and a multicultural identity in which each of us can find something that he/she can identify with; this is the basis of my cooking. In addition, I had the chance to work in big restaurants, including gourmet restaurants Aqua (3 Michelin Stars), Life (3 Michelin Stars), Schote (1 Michelin star) in Germany where I developed my expertise. I carry a culinary identity that is Afro-fusion, defined as a meeting between the many cuisines of Africa and the world.

What’s your signature dish and why?
The "saka saka" in Kikongo language, it's a dish made from cassava leaves, stewed with about 25 spices. It is the expression of ancestral know-how and cuisine that has passed on from generation to generation. My grandmother taught me the story behind the dish as well as how to cook it. My signature dish is a tribute to this exceptional woman who instilled the values of sharing in me, through her simple cooking which made people happy. This dish is the expression of a deep respect for our guests because of the culinary techniques and the time it takes to cook. 

What is Chefs in Africa and why did you create it?
During my travels on the continent to promote "Afro-Fusion" and learn about our gastronomic heritage; I was inspired by the dynamism of hundreds of young culinary actors I met in order to understand the story of African culinary arts. This is how we created Chefs In Africa. We are an exchange platform whose mission is to educate and put the continent's talents at the forefront of a global culinary revolution. Our online community allows members to connect, build their personal brand, continue their education and find work opportunities in the restaurant industry.

What do you think the world has yet to see from African chefs and African cuisine? 
In my experience, African cuisine has a lot to offer the world's gastronomic scene with its diversity. It's a question of changing the form but not the essence of these dishes while leaving our creative spirit free in order to have an international footprint. Our challenge is to write a new page of African cuisine that is rooted in our culinary traditions.

What’s the best advice you could give to a young African chef?
The advice I always give to young African chefs is, first of all, to be patient, to take the time to do things right, and most of all, learn the basics of cooking.

How does it feel to be nominated as a Basque Culinary Prize finalist?
First of all, I would like to thank the members of the technical committee of the Basque Culinary Award from the bottom of my heart for having selected us as finalists, it is an honour for the Chefs in Africa project that I champion through this nomination. It's the fruits of the labour of a generation of young people who are eager to see their continent, Africa, shine culinarily.

What do you see yourself doing in the future? 
I am working on opening Labo restaurant in Rwanda. The choice of this country corresponds to our vision of an Africa "open to the world." A scientific approach to the service of the culinary arts in Africa and in the world.

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