Using Gastronomy to empower communities: the story of Chef Fatmata Binta

The VA TourismPodcast

Jul 31 2022 • 13 mins

My Guest today is the Founder of Fulani Kitchen Chef Fatmata Binta. Chef Binta who has become the first African to win the Basque World Culinary Prize opens on her journey to achieving this noble prize in gastronomy and set sights on expansion of her projects aimed to bring change to the people of her community and also help grow the knowledge of African gastronomy in the world.

Founder - Fulani Kitchen Foundation / Executive Chef - Dine on a Mat

Chef Binta is an award winning chef born and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone to first-generation Sierra Leonean Fulanis of Guinean descent. She is a modern day nomadic chef. Like her ancestors, Binta has traveled to many countries to explore different cooking techniques, ingredients and ways of life. At Fulani Kitchen, she combines her nomadic Fulani roots, classical training and love for rural life and nature to create modern dishes, while maintaining the simplicity and authenticity of Fulani culture.  By creating a traditional setting, discussing Fulani culture and serving ancient grains, indigenous spices and other exciting West-African ingredients in an interactive way, Binta triggers all senses and takes you to a whole new world.

Food for Sustenance

Her passion to share African nomadic cuisine is based on her experiences as a child growing up during the darkest period of Sierra Leonean history- the civil war. She experienced first hand how food brings people together and pulls down walls. Many times during the conflict no one could go out to buy food or food was simply not available. She saw neighbors from different backgrounds contribute, share and prepare meals together to make something out of nothing.  The rice they could afford was filled with cockroaches which they had to hand pick, repeatedly wash and blend with bulgur in order to get enough to share for everyone. What she calls creating food for sustenance; learning to create totally new dishes with just a handful of ingredients, sharing and working together, was not only a life-saving skill in a war zone, it has actually made her the chef she is today.

Fulani Cuisine Ambassador

Chef Binta presents herself as an ambassador for Fulani cuisine and she promotes fonio, an ancient super grain, traditionally grown and consumed in West Africa. Over the last couple of years, fonio, as a result of its similarity to quinoa, has gained more attention in international culinary circles. And rightfully so- it’s gluten free, extremely nutritious, requires minimal water to grow, has a shorter life cycle than its similar foods, is more disease and drought resilient and gives back more nutrients to the soil than other staple crops like rice and maize. This little grain might possibly be one of the answers to food security and climate challenges to come. Binta’s menu almost always features this super grain, fonio, as she continues to promote its value to her guests on the mat.