In her Fulani Kitchen restaurant, with which she travels the world offering exclusive pop-up dinners, the young winner of the Rising Star award at The Best Chef Awards 2021 wants to bring people closer to African culture and sustainable cuisine, while supporting Fulani women in their battle for economic independence and the perpetration of the culinary traditions of their tribe.
The culinary culture of the Fulani people, Africa's largest nomadic tribe, is a story of adaptation and survival that results in a conscious use of West African ingredients, flavors and traditions. Culinary features of which chef Fatmata Binta is particularly proud and that she wishes to bring into the spotlight thanks to her nomadic restaurant. "I was born in a Fulani tribe and the environment in which I was lucky enough to grow up is wonderful. I lived in close contact with nature, I learned the importance and the beauty of sharing, and from an early age, I came into contact with an immense and perfectly sustainable culinary culture that today I want to make known to as many people as possible. Through my work, I want to tell the stories of the Fulani people, share their culture and make sure that they will no longer be seen solely and exclusively assimple herdsmen but also as a population from which to draw inspiration,” she says." Their sense of community and their way of living have been very important for me and my personal and professional growth, and in Fulani Kitchen I decided to invite people to fully live the journey I propose to them, leaving their shoes outside, sitting on communal floor mats, sharing food and using their hands as cutlery”. And of course, cultural immersion also passes through food. “I propose meals made up of 90% grains, roots, vegetables and what would commonly be classified as waste or non-noble ingredients. In addition, my tasting menu changes every day, because just as the tribe varies its food depending on where the caravan settles, I adapt my dishes to the place where I am actually cooking them. It’s one of the basic concepts of nomadism”.
Binta’s nomadic journey
And nomadism is part of chef Binta's DNA. In fact, from a very young age, for political and historical reasons, she learned to change abode very often, adapting to every type of situation and living off what nature offers. “I was born into a very large family and one of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood is that we kids were always an integral part of the culinary process. We went to the market, and we helped set the table and cook. Food played a central role for us. It was like a game, but for our parents it was also a way of keeping us busy and teaching little girls to one day take care of the kitchen. "Nonetheless, young Fatmata Binta never imagined becoming a chef. She studied and graduated in International Relations and after embarking on a career as a TV host, she moved to Madrid to teach English and explore Europe. Once in Spain, to make ends meet, she started cooking for some African friends and charities, and only at that moment, thanks to the comments of those who tasted her dishes, did she finally understand that she wanted to pursue a career in cooking. So, when she returned to Africa, she decided to attend the Kenyan Culinary Institute in Nairobi, where, after graduation, she soon started to work in hospitality. But the rigidity and monotony of the work shifts, added to the awareness that her beloved African culinary culture was not sufficiently valued and was gradually disappearing, persuaded her to change course again and to launch her unique Fulani cuisine concept. “I quit my job and I decided to devote myself to understanding more about my culture so that I could educate the world. I spent several months living and cooking among the Fulanis and documenting their recipes, and when I moved to Accra, I decided to host dinners inspired by that. That’s how Fulani Kitchen was born.”
Fonio and Sustainability
In addition to promoting the vast and varied culture of her tribe, with Fulani Kitchen, Chef Binta intends to promote more sustainable foods and lifestyles.