From Tours, France, to her hometown of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and as far as Lomé, Togo – her country of origin, where she opened “L’Atelier des sens” in 2011 –, Olivia de Souza lives from this passion that is cooking. In his establishment, located in the chic district of the Stars, not far from the Fréau Jardin, in Lomé, there is no menu card. Meals are either ordered the day before to be consumed on the spot, around a table d’hôtes of fifteen covers, or delivered, at home or at the workplace. “I cook according to my customers’ wishes, and not by food dictate, which is why my refrigerator is empty when I don’t have reservations,” she confides.
Olivia de Souza’s love of spicy foods dates back to a young age. First within the family circle, then in France, where she arrived in 1989 to do two years of study at the Grandmont high school in Tours, concluding with a G2 baccalaureate, before turning to a BTS in tourism and commerce.
While studying, she offered dishes to her classmates in order to support herself. This allowed her to create a network very early on and pave her way to the financial independence she had always dreamed of. “I knew I would be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know it would be in the kitchen, which has become my whole life and my passion,” she slips.
Aged 50, twenty-five of whom are totaled in her art, the chef defines herself as an itinerant cook, who likes to offer tables d’hôtes in African capitals. After Abidjan, Libreville, Dakar, Accra and Cotonou, it is preparing to promote its know-how during the month of May, in Brazzaville.
To his own recipes, spiced up with a blend of local spices, are added classic dishes to satisfy a diverse clientele. Bean pancakes (called “kpédjigaou” in Togo), tomato-onion-cucumber salad, yam parmentier, fish or vegetable yassa… The authenticity of his cuisine makes an impression.
Wangash confit with coconut oil, fonio dishes, djenkoumé, alèlè…
It is difficult to pass through her establishment without tasting the wangash confit with coconut oil, presented in a small bottle delivered at 3,500 CFA francs (5.30 euros), or fonio dishes, which she necessarily mixes with seeds. of sesame. In Togo as in France, she likes to serve djenkoumé, a family dish made from corn flour, which she calls “Togolese polenta”. Or alèlè, very popular in Benin, which is often eaten with chilli juice.
Taste of sharing
Passionate about reading, Olivia de Souza devotes her free time to cultivating and sharing her knowledge. Its “Atelier des sens”, in Lomé, where about thirty people – young people or adults – have been trained, is also a library. Recipe and social life books, written by contemporary authors, are available to guests.
In the locality of Djagblé, about ten kilometers north of the capital, she is investing in opening a professional training center in cooking and culinary coaching, where people will be taught how to cook and eat healthily. Olivia frequently takes part in festivals and cooking shows, on Canal+ and on local television channels.
Through the ingredients she uses, she is the embodiment of African cuisine”
She will again engage in this exercise from May 10 to 15, in Lomé, alongside a dozen chefs, gathered for the Festival La Marmite (Fesma), of which she is the godmother. Among them: the Cameroonian Christian Abégan, expert in gastronomy strategy and food security; the Togolese Pépin Kwami Kunkel, designer of Plate’s Fooding; chef Lopez Ahligo and the Senegalese Sadibou Sow, executive chef of the Hôtel 2-Février, in Lomé.
For promoter Jean-Paul Agboh Ahouélété, Olivia de Souza was chosen as the godmother of this event because she is “the embodiment of African cuisine through the ingredients she uses and the dishes she concocts”. “They are in tune with new food methods and with the enhancement of local products, which our Festival wishes to promote”, he explains. Through Olivia, it is a question of celebrating “all the African women who make their families happy every day thanks to the meals they prepare”, “all the women and all the men who, in the maquis or on the side of the road, have feeds and still feeds generations of Africans”, continues Agboh Ahouélété.
On the program for Fesma, to which some two hundred participants are expected (restaurant owners, producers, players in the food sector, industrialists): conferences on gastronomy and contemporary issues, master classes, coaching sessions, awareness-raising meetings and experience sharing between chefs and students.
The 1st edition of the Festival La Marmite #FESMA is coming.. See you in Lomé from May 10 to 15, 2022 #togolais228🇹🇬 #cuisinetiktok @rfi @cheflopezavolonte @hotel2fevrier
♬ Ahoe – Small Poppy
Lovers of good food will enjoy the culinary fair of local products and the tasting room. With the ambition of promoting local and African values and traditions, Fesma, sponsored by Togolese President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, will also compete in catering and cooking schools. The teams will, among other things, have to prepare a dish from a basket and set up a buffet according to a free program.