24-year-old in Toronto launches groundbreaking African mobile restaurant
Revolutionary African Traveling Restaurant Launched by 24-Year-Old in Toronto Not Only Expresses a Dynamic Culinary Identity, It’s also a non-profit organization created to help others with food insecurity .
“” Abibiman “means the land from which blacks originate. It’s from the Twi / Fante language of Ghana, where my family is from, ”Rachel Adjei, founder of the Abibiman project, told blogTO.
“When choosing a name, I wanted an African identifier. Through my research, I discovered that there was not exactly a word for Africa in many indigenous African languages. This was the most. close that I could get and that sounded good. “
The Abibiman Project pop-up serves savory and sweet dishes inspired by Africa and the legacy of young founder Rachel Adjei.
Adjei was raised in Rexdale by her Ghanaian mother, has a self-proclaimed sweet tooth, and has worked in the Toronto food scene for the past five years, participating in George Brown’s Culinary Management and Baking / Pastry Programs while working full time for three years. years.
She specialized in cuisines from East and South-East Asia and South of France and the Mediterranean as well as French pastry, but discovered a new explosion of passion when she launched The Abibiman Project.
“Inspiration comes a lot from Ghanaian cuisine since my family is from Ghana. Overall my focus is on the whole African continent. Usually people don’t know anything about Africa let alone how much different countries, regional cuisines or traditional ingredients are used from one region to another, ”explains Adjei.
“I focus largely on African foods to give context and a way for food literate people to at least distinguish between North, East, South and West African foods, l ‘final objective being to be able to dive deeper into specific regions and their specific food cultures. “
The Abibiman Project was launched in November 2020, after a summer where Adjei witnessed protests demanding that black voices be heard.
“I was moved and empowered by the strength and unity of the black community to demand change, rightly so, in the midst of a pandemic,” Adjei said.
“I had always thought throughout my career, I could make food however I wanted in a way that reflected my personal identity. By connecting with those dark voices, I realized it was so a better time than ever to make the difference with my culinary identity. “
The profits from the Abibiman project are donated to Afri-can Food Basket.
“They support Toronto’s black community through education in urban farming practices, offering programs for youth and giving food insecure people access to culturally appropriate foods,” said Adjei.
“When I saw their Black Food Toronto program as a response to the pandemic, I had to get involved.”
At Abibiman’s newest pop-up September 24-26 at Leaf + Bone, savory dishes on offer included peanut soup, a bowl of sorghum leaf rice waakye rice and black-eyed peas with tomato sauce. and plantains, and an East African “rolex” omelet on chapati (flatbread), all ranging from $ 8 to $ 18.
“I draw my influence from traditional African recipes, indigenous African ingredients and black ingenuity and the evolution of their cuisine in western metropolitan cities like Toronto,” Adjei said.
“We offer an authentic taste of the African palate through our pop-up menus. Give customers the opportunity to explore flavors on their own with the spices and flavor bases we make. “
As for the $ 3.25 baked goods, there were orange hibiscus cookies, mbatata (sweet potato cookies), mandazi (coconut and cardamom fritters), and Savory chocolate cookies made from dawa dawa – a fermented African lotus bean that Adjei describes as “essential in West African cuisines.”
“It’s packed with umami flavors and tastes like a maggi cube to me,” says Adjei. “I find it excellent with chocolates but I also use it in my red sauce, jollof rice and other traditional dishes.”
Slightly more expensive pastries included a steamed banana leaf rice pudding, a dacquoise of bissap and coconut brown sugar, and a caramelized moringa chocolate and Jamaican pumpkin curd sponge.
“Traditionally, desserts are not popular in African culinary cultures, so making sweets also gives me carte blanche to create sweets using my formal training and evolving delicious African ingredients,” says Adjei.
She even made an ice cream in the summer called “Kofi Brokeman” after a Ghanaian street food made with roasted plantain and peanuts, which she interpreted as roasted plantain ice cream with candied peanuts spiced with dried chili. and fresh ginger.
The project also makes many pantry products available in pop-ups and an online store, such as chocolates, red sauce, salts and spice blends.
“The food uses cooking techniques that I have used for years, combined with ingredients and recipes prepared by my ancestors, giving the food heart and weight,” says Adjei.
“It is a combination of new and old African cuisines using local ingredients as well as traditional ingredients imported from the diaspora. The taste is usually spicy, slow cooking and appreciation of the ingredients.”
Currently, she manages all day-to-day aspects of Project Abibiman on her own while working four days a week at Butchers of Distinction, her friends and family helping her with things like rides and spice packing.
She takes pop-ups whenever the opportunity arises, tailoring them to her schedule as best she can.
“I’m struggling to make connections and build community through this project, so being in different parts of the city helps me reach other audiences,” says Adjei.
She hopes to switch to operating the Abibiman Project full time and pay for herself, turning the business into a social enterprise that will also help her pay her rent and hire staff so she doesn’t have to to depend on friends and family.
She also wants to start wholesaling her products like spices, organize more special and catering events, and start giving online classes on African cuisine, culture, history and flavors.
It is possible that she is opening a storefront or a cafe “away from the street”.
“I do what I think people will like, be shocked or even dislike. It’s about giving an experience and making people more attuned to the African palace,” says Adjei.
“Food is so powerful. It’s the great bond that binds people together. It can make a bad day better. It can spark nostalgic memories. Without food, life is bland and no one should be without it.”