Chef Adjepong: Revamping classic dishes in a contemporary world
Two simple, but powerful things struck me about Chef Eric Adjepong. A love for sheer culinary beauty and a natural gift for conceptualising what mere mortals will grapple with, kept me gawping at his food creations. The second is an inherent curiosity and passion for Africa and Ghanaian cuisine that culminated in a Masters level thesis on West Africa’s maggi cube.
Chef Adjepong, who has lived on three continents, it must be noted, was born and raised in New York City as a first generation Ghanaian-American. He has three degrees in Culinary Arts; a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University, and a Master of Public Health in International Public Health Nutrition from the University of Westminster in London, UK. He resides in New York City where he is a personal Chef, a caterer and public health & nutrition professional.
Tell us about the Pinch & Plate events?
Pinch & Plate is a customizable mobile dining service offered by myself
and my fiance Janell Mack. I cook the meal and Janell creates the setting and ambiance using her interior designing background. We essentially bring a restaurant experience to your home or venue
Tell us about the main steps you’d take in conceptualising a dish to ultimately setting up your station?
Seasonality is what really drives my creativity. Depending on what my focus is for the main component of the dish, I pretty much write down complimentary flavors and how I’d like to showcase each one in the dish.
One of the most appetising renditions of Kelewele I have ever seen was created by you. I believe it was kelewele served with peanut brittle served as desert. What are your thoughts on taking a typically traditional African dish or snack like kelewele and imposing your own modern interpretation or twist to it?
I love it. Making that kelelwele dish was a lot of fun conceptualizing and actually executing. I enjoy revamping classic dishes. I grew up eating kelewele as a snack around the house. Like other traditional dishes, my aim is to keep the essence of the meal intact yet present it in a completely contemporary way. Pushing African food culture forward is important to me so seeing other cooks doing it as well is exciting.
If you had to cook for a Ghana State dinner on the occasion of the next US president’s first visit to Ghana, what dishes will you serenade the guests with and why?
Oh wow! Haha, my nerves would be on 10 probably for the entire dinner service. That’s a really tough one. I would definitely want to highlight flavors from both continents and showcase an exciting meal. Starting with a light vibrant like a salad, I would then move into a creative spin on a classic Ghanaian dish. I would want to finish with a sweet play on a traditional American dish.
You undertook an in depth study on food and disease which touched on West Africa’s ubiquitous maggi cube. What were your conclusions?
I did! I moved to London in 2012 to study for my Masters degree in International Public Health Nutrition.
For my thesis, I went to Ghana for two weeks with the hopes to find any correlation between the use of Maggi Cubes, and the increase in non communicable diseases such as high blood pressure that leads to cardiovascular disease. I concluded that the heavy increase in urbanization between rural areas in Ghana to cities like Accra and Kumasi from the 1970s and on, also increased the crutch on convenience of the Maggi cubes.
I conducted a food frequency questionnaire between Accra and Kumasi. In the questionnaire I asked mostly women about how food was prepared traditionally in their household versus how it is prepared today.
For the times when you are not wearing an apron what do you do for fun?
I’m a big music and movie fan. If I hadn’t gone to school for culinary arts I probably would have gone to study film. I try to catch as many movies and live shows as possible.
If you had to travel to three countries to sample the delights of their cuisine, which three will be top of your list?
Travel and food go hand in hand. Subconsciously I want Anthony Bourdain’s life so I usually keep mental notes of the different countries he’s visited. Traveling just to eat, I’d go to Peru, India, and New Orleans, USA.
Any tips for anyone one who wants to follow in your footsteps to be a chef?
Study the craft and love what you do! Cutting corners usually doesn’t play out so well with anything in life especially in the culinary field. Understand the how and why behind everything you cook and have fun.