Covid-19 collapsed small and medium-sized businesses with the hardest hit being Black founders. On the other hand, the pandemic also brought out the innovative and creative side of people who were under lockdown.
One of such persons is Renee Chuks who is a trained chef and founder of Aldente Africa. Her company turns cassava into pasta. According to Reuters, the Nigerian founder started experimenting with making pasta from cassava in her kitchen in Lagos during the 2020 lockdown.
She uses locally grown cassava and plantain instead of wheat to produce hand-made pasta. Nigeria is one of the major producers of cassava in Africa. In many parts of Africa, including Nigeria, cassava is used to make cassava granules or cassava flakes. Chuks’ production is the latest addition to the use of cassava on the continent.
‘’We looked inward to like what kind of products we have that we eat every day. Cassava is one of our major, major products, there will always be by-products from cassava. So we figured let’s start with that, if we are able to get good success with cassava then everything else will follow,” she said.
She infuses her pasta with herbs and vegetables to give her pasta a greenish or pinkish tint. She touts her pasta as healthier and more affordable amidst the rising cost of food on the market.
‘’The need to eat what grows in our land. The need to secure the food in our land, to not get everything that we eat from outside, instead, create from inside and then share with the world the goodness that we have.’’
Chuks is a graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. She graduated in 2011 and returned to Nigeria to work in different capacities as a Chef with A-list hotels in Nigeria.
She has headlined several culinary shows and food festivals, in addition to consulting for top food brands. For seven years, she worked at Trasco group, owners of some of the best resorts and restaurants in Lagos.
Chuks sells her food in health food stores and online and the business is also among the first in Nigeria to make gluten-free pasta as more and more people seek wheat substitutes because gluten can create health problems.
“Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains. Humans digestive systems cannot break down gluten completely. While this is not a problem for most people, some people get sick from undigested gluten. One example is an autoimmune response to gluten called celiac disease. Celiac can damage the small intestine,” according to VOA Learning.
In addition to making pasta, Chuks also produces wines made from hibiscus plants and herbs for cooking.