Imagine walking down an alley after a hard day’s work, slowly you start to smell the nice aroma of food. The aroma gets intense as you walk on and before you know it you are salivating. Yes! That is the power of Food -one thing that delights our senses and fills our existential need for nutrition.
Different cultures have different foods based on the ingredients readily available to them and culinary knowledge that has been passed down for generations. No wonder every culture’s cuisine is really distinct – Indians are known for their unique spices they use in cooking, Africans for their bolus food, Asians for their rice meals and green teas and English for their tea.
GreenViews brings you the profile of Chef Fatmata Binta, a cook who has succeeded in taking the food of her people- the Fulanis, global.
Chef Binta, promoting Fulani cuisine worldwide
The Fulanis are a group of nomadic people found mostly in West Africa usually, occupying the South of the Sahara. They are widely dispersed due to their nomadic way of life and are well-known for their cattle rearing occupations. The Fulani people have a distinct way of life albeit not so disparate from cultures of adjoining tribes with most of them being Muslims.
Binta is a Chef currently based in Accra, Ghana and she is widely known as the Fulani chef as that’s what she chooses to call herself. She has honed her culinary skills and has become a celebrated chef here in Ghana. An evening experiencing Fulani food prepared by Chef Binta is a fulfilling, exhilarating and an ‘i-want-to-experience-this-again’ moment and her customers attest to this fact just like GreenViews offers.
She organizes pop-up food events where diners get to experience both traditional and modern style of Fulani dining. Diners get a full experience of using traditional utensils, sitting on mats and eating in a communal environment and building relationships. At Fulani Kitchen, Binta combines her nomadic Fulani roots, classical training at the Kenyan Culinary Institute and her love for rural life and nature to create a whole new world. It is no wonder she is an ambassador with CHEFS IN AFRICA for Anglophone countries – they travel around the world to promote Chefs who are passionate about promoting African cuisine to the world. Now let’s get to know a bit of Chef Binta’s background.
Chef Binta’s background
She describes herself as having a Guinean heritage as her parents are from Guinea who later immigrated to Freetown, Sierra Leone where she was born and bred. She has loved to be in the kitchen ever since she was a toddler and she recounts an experience where she disobeyed her parent’s directives and had her hand scalded with hot oil at the age of five because she wanted to show her folks that she knew her way around the kitchen. That incident however did nothing at all to erode her love and enthusiasm for the kitchen; in fact her love for the kitchen grew more and more. When she was eight, she went to live with her grandmother who owned a mini-restaurant. Because of her love for the kitchen, her grandma gave her the work of washing dishes and pots which she says gave her a deeper respect for food preparation.
The civil war in Sierra Leone was a devastating one; taking away many lives and property and leaving food shortages and fear in its wake. Food played a catalyst role in overcoming hate and prejudice in a situations and bringing people together. During the conflict, food became scarce – shops and markets were closed or due to an embargo, food ingredients were in short supply.
Food or the lack of it brought communities and neighborhoods together. Neighbors will contribute and share ingredients to prepare meals that could be shared with everyone who had contributed. Moreover, the food they could afford like rice had lots of cockroaches and their eggs and they had to communally hand pick and repeatedly wash and blend bulgur (cereal made from wheat) in order to enough to share for everyone and this brought togetherness and unity.
Eventually, the family fled to Guinea – to a farming village with no electricity and no infrastructure like tap water. Hence, everything had to be done manually and farming was a big part; this whole experience shaped Binta’s perspectives on food, family and love. It was a norm in the village for people to eat in one big bowl, and for meat to be shared by elders and food is not permitted to go waste.
Career-wise, Chef Binta was not a chef when she started out. She made reference to a point about her pursuing other careers that society or family had felt were best suited for her. She started out as a Television presenter, then as an IT sales person, then studying International Relations to working in marketing; she however lacked fulfillment in all these areas. Her “moment of truth” came in Madrid, Spain when she lost her job as a private English tutor and had the idea of selling sandwiches to MBA students. The students couldn’t have enough and the sandwiches would finish within an hour of delivery and that was when she finally started to believe what her friends and family had been telling her about how good she cooks.
When she came to Ghana she got a bit depressed because she felt that she needed one of the traditional African woman careers and this however led her to think about following her passion. Taking a leap of faith was what she did to travel to Kenya to pursue studies in the culinary arts. Chef Binta is very glad she took that leap of faith to follow her passion as she spreads the Fulani dishes around the world.
Anytime you are in Ghana, please do well to check in at GreenViews Residential Apartments and also experience the Fulani Kitchen’s culinary arts for ecstatic experiences. If unfortunately it is not possible (maybe due to complete reservations) here you have some restaurants near our building.