Well, it was a very great time for me and I’ll say I’m very lucky to work with Chef Pierre because he’s my senior in the industry. He has the experience and he’s doing a lot of things with African food. So it was an opportunity to work with him to improve and today, to God’s glory, I’m doing better.
A lot of people like Nok. I’m sure you know this, but what do you think makes Nok special?
People like Nok because our standards are totally different. Our dishes are different. The spices we use are also different. We study those spices. We test them, test their flavors. We do the recipe tests again and again. When you want to be better, you need to do one thing again, again and again. At the end of the day, you get what you want. That’s what makes us different. And when you look for all these kinds of dishes in Africa today, it’s only at Nok you can get them.
How do you keep things fresh and creative every time?
As I said before, we work very hard. We don’t sleep. Every second for us is an opportunity for us to have something new to offer to our customers. We do a lot of research. We go to many places: both to the local markets and international markets. We go there to discover all the spices so our customers can have different experiences. Not that you come today and you eat one thing, then you come the next day and eat the same thing. We study a lot and that’s how we come up with different dishes that make our guests happy.
What do you love the most about being a chef and being in the industry?
For me, the reason I am a chef is that I can make other people happy with my dishes. The chef I am is not about the uniform or the name, but by what I present on the plate to my guests. That’s what makes me a chef. And when the guest eats and is happy, I’m happy too. It’s a passion. I feel like I’m in another world anytime I see myself in front of a guest or I present my food to a guest and he eats it with joy.
Ok, for the opposite. What would you say you hate?
As a human being, you must like something and you must hate something. What I hate most is that when i present a food to a guest and that plate comes back to the kitchen with the food, it makes me angry. It makes me want to discover what made the guest not like the food.
You’re hosting a Chef’s Table this weekend. Tell us a bit about it.
This Chef’s Table we’re about to do is something special. Special because when many people hear Benin Republic, they see it as a small country. They don’t know that even if it is small, something good can come from it. One particular thing that makes me happy to present dishes from Benin is that in Benin we have some unique spices. These spices are from the ancient days. Those that our grandparents were using to cook. Today, for spices people prefer to go the supermarket. It makes me to realize that I need to value what I have from my country.
This is the country that made me who I am today so i want to value my country. All the things my country has, I want to make it available for people to experience. That’s how we came up with the different dishes [for the Chef’s Table]. But it’s not about the dishes alone, it’s about the spices. Without spices, the dish doesn’t have any value. It’s the spice that makes a dish.