Dieuveil Malonga is not your stereotypical man actually he is not even your ordinary African boy especially if you take a look at the feats he’s chalked as a successful sous-chef and gastronomist. For this Afro-fusionist a career in food was always going to be a place he was going to find himself in because of his environment but this wasn’t finalized until he moved to Germany at the age of 13.
At age 24 when most of us still trying so hard to find a job which actually pays Malonga is already serving his dishes in 5-star restaurants , rap king and fashionista, A$AP Rocky, model Rick Owens and a list of big names in the world.Recently named in the Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, the 24-year old African sous -chef is helping the world discover African foods. We spoke to him about his Afro-fusion dishes, his short stint on TV and what the future looks like for African foods.
BP : Hello, Dieuveil, Congratulations on being listed in Forbes Africa’s 30 exceptional young people under 30. You must be rich then?
DM: Hahaha. You guys are very funny. Well the word “rich” is quite subjective
BP: Tell us something no one knows about you?
DM: My name is Dieuveil Malonga but you can call me Malonga. I am 24 years old.I was born in Linzolo a town 20 kilometers from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo (Central Africa), I was raised in a family environment that gave me my love of cooking.
BP: Would you consider your specialty “Afro-fusion” as an artistic expression?
DM: Everyone has their version of Afro-fusion. For me, Afro-fusion cuisine is a subtle blend of tradition and modernity, a culinary bridge between the plural flavors of Africa which is the garden of the world. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I now have a book on the subject
BP: For an average African boy, where would you say the love for cuisine evolved?
DM: It certainly evolved in Germany and France and my passage to Asia. I was adopted by a German family when I moved here. I didn’t like the food and the cold in Germany. Also at the beginning,I didn’t understand the language either. I was bit depressed. So my mother took me to afro-shops to try to get my smile back.
I bought the same cooking products that my grandmother used to buy in Congo. I started fusing African and German products. It was really tasty! That’s where Afro-fusion began for me. The education system in Germany allows students to major really early.
So I began cooking classes at high school. Then I did a three-year culinary course. During this course, when my mates used to use potatoes, I always found alternatives. For example, I’d use cassava etc.
BP: Where did you train to become a chef?
DM: As I said earlier, I was raised in a family environment that inspire my love for cooking. My grandmother was well known in the city of Linzolo for her cuisine, I saw her practice lovingly with food and decorated with passion. She gave me this love for cooking.
I left the Congo for Germany as a teenager and I joined a culinary school. Thanks to this school I was able to win 9 culinary competitions in Germany. I had the opportunity to work in 5-star restaurants in Germany. Then I decided to continue the adventure in France where I participated in the inauguration of the Intercontinental Hotel in Marseille.
I joined the contest Top chef course (M6) that opened my numbers are good. I had the opportunity to cook in the world at the Venice Biennale in 2015 with Michel Lamy, organize ephemeral restaurants with Rick Owens brand to represent African cuisine during a culinary competition Indonesia, performing inaugural events at the Barbican in London or at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain.
Often on television, either as a food writer at Voice of Africa, or in the kitchen dedicated shows like “Brigade”, on France Ô.
More recently, I cooked the closing dinner of the last edition of the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan. And it is this event that inspired me this project: Kitchen & Party Abidjan.
BP: As a gourmet chef and a gastronomist, how many recipes have you created so far?
DM: More than 350 recipes created so far
BP: Do you have a signature dish or a food you enjoy cooking??
DM: Yes, Seafood Pepper Soup. I like seafood
BP: Which African ingredient is your favorite and why??
DM: I have many favorite Ingredients but Penja Pepper from Cameroon is my favorite.I like it because the smell is wonderful
BM: How has African cuisine transformed in your opinion throughout the years?
DM: Not necessarily transform but there has been an upgrade. We have gone through the door of gastronomy and now our presentation is just superb
BP: What are some of your proudest moments as a chef??
DM: Recently I cooked for the CEO FORUM in Ivory Coast. I worked with local products, revisited the Ivorian traditional dishes with more than 40 African chefs from all backgrounds and all for 850 guests.
It was a real challenge but it is my best dining experience to date.
BP: How easy or hard is it preparing a European dish compared to an African one?
DM: It’s really difficult to compare the continent because every one of them has its culinary culture
BP: What is the hardest cuisine you’ve had to make?
DM: It was there during my apprenticeship in Germany the first step in the professional kitchen
BP: Do you have any chef or chefs you admire?
DM: Yes, chef, Pierre Thiam
BP: Which celebrities have you worked with and what are in demand from them?
DM: A$AP ROCKY,Rick Owens and Michele Lamy have all enjoyed my meals.I have enjoyed working with Chef Thomas bühner who is a well-known chef in Germany. Chef Sven Elverfeld and chef Lionel Levy both from France
BP: Does your artistry extend to making exotic liquor?
DM: Yes,you can say exactly that. I do a lot of cocktails and experiments with wine
BP: Some people ascribe to the view that you can’t be on a diet with African foods due to their rich source of carbohydrates as well as fat and oil. Do you agree or disagree?
DM: There are also really greasy dishes from the European Kitchen so I strongly disagree with that view. It’s all up to you. African foods are the healthiest if you asked me.As for me, I’m inspired by the cuisine of grandmothers.
I go every month to several African countries, meet grandmothers who send me their traditional expertise and I transform these dishes in my laboratory for it to look presentable.
BP: Do you have a favorite restaurant??
DM: Yes, Restaurant Bushman in Cote d’Ivoire
BP: What is your ideal vacation destination??
DM: I would like to visit Ghana sometime. I’ve heard so much of the country and I need to explore it for myself
BP: You are known to be a lover of art. Do you have any priceless artwork in your possession??
DM: My food is my priceless artwork. I love art I love the color . It inspires me and plays a big role in my life and Passion
BP: What are your final thoughts to readers and those who want to venture into a career in cooking?
DM: Just like anything else in this world you need to train and invest yourself fully
Photo Credit: Orphee Noubissi Photography