Ghanaian-American chef Eric Adjepong operates Pinch & Plate, a mobile dining service in Washington, D.C. Born and raised in Bronx, he was named as one of People magazine’s top 10 “Sexiest Chefs Alive” last year. He also competed in the 16th season of cooking television reality show, Top Chef, last year.
With a Master’s Degree in international public health and nutrition from the University of Westminster in London, Adjepong, who developed a passion for cooking from a much younger age, says his food is heavily influenced by West African cuisine and the African diaspora – the Caribbean, South America, the new-age South, and the old South as well.
One very interesting aspect of chef Adjepong’s cooking is his occasional infusion of African culinary history in his menu. As a finalist on Top Chef last year, Adjepong, who was the first West African to feature in the competition, wanted his menu to paint a picture of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
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“I wanted to tell the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa through Caribbean ports, the American South and South America through food,” he said, according to The New York Times. “It’s an unfortunate story, but one that needs to be told.”
Though Adjepong could not make it after the first course, his elimination was widely criticized by some viewers who were eager to experience the journey. Some also called for more diverse judges who are familiar with African cuisines.
“The support was overwhelming,” he said. “People were just so proud to see the food that I was cooking.”
One of the judges in the finale, Alexander Smalls, a restaurateur and food author also touched on Adjepong’s elimination and fan disappointment.
“Folks were really looking forward to his meal and felt like they had lost something by not getting to see it,” he told The New York Times. “It was more than a meal, it was educational,” he added.
Responding to the outcry, The New York Times reports that chef Tom Colicchio, the head “Top Chef” judge, after the episode was aired, invited Adjepong over to his Craft restaurant in Manhattan to finish the full course meal. Honoring the invitation, chef Adjepong presented his “The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Through Food” menu to guests on May 13 which painted a vivid picture of the slave trade and the African culinary skills brought to the west as a result.
Chef Adjepong’s four-course menu was influenced by ingredients from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal as well as other countries beyond the shores of the continent that were routes during the slave trade.
Some of the dishes on his menu, according to The New York Times, included king crab in beurre blanc made with palm wine, yucca (cassava) which featured in quite a number of courses, a dessert of corn and goat’s milk pudding served with magenta tapioca pearls made with Nigerian hibiscus to give it the “sobolo” flavor.
He also served his Jamaican-inspired steak tartare, his first-course dish that got him eliminated in the finale.