Cameroonian businesswoman Bioha melanite He was surprised by the diversity of São Paulo’s cuisine when he came on vacation in 2007. “But where are the African restaurants?” he asked his compatriots. It was this unanswered question that inspired the 52-year-old businessman to open the venture BIOS (called Bios), one of the premier addresses of African cuisine in the city.
The idea of culinary art was waiting for its turn in the businesswoman’s head, but it was not her first work. In Brasilia, her birthplace chosen because of her diplomatic relatives living here, the businesswoman started as a hairdresser in an African hair salon. With the success of her braids, she quickly gained a clientele.
To increase her income, she taught French, the official language of her country. “From a bank teller in Cameroon to African hairstyles, it wasn’t too difficult because I was living in a house, I was living a reasonable life and the money I earned was mine alone.”
I was surprised during a vacation trip to São Paulo that there were no African restaurants. “I couldn’t believe that Brazil, being a country with a lot of people of African descent, had no representation in the culinary arts.”
I started by grilling fish on the sidewalk of Rua Guayanacis, the meeting point for Africans in the city center. “I cooked an African-style barbecue on the sidewalk. When I say this, people don’t believe it. It’s been like six months like that.
Before migrating, the third of seven children in a middle-class family worked as a bank teller in Yaounde, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Cameroon. Unlike most of those who leave an African country for Brazil, Milanito did not flee political conflicts or look for work. He had a stable life.
I had a little money saved, but it wasn’t enough for anything big. In February 2008, he rented the space where the restaurant is located today, in Alameda Barão de Limeira, in Santa Cecilia. She created five Cameroonian dishes using her family’s recipes, named the place after herself and opened Biyou’z Restaurant.
The name of the dish is a compliment to Cameroonians
When we learn a foreign language, we use some phrases and constructions differently than native speakers. It’s normal. This adds a new flavor to the language, here in the linguistic sense. This is what happens when Milanetto says, for example, that “the cuisine is spread by the Cameroonians.”
The cuisine is so present among the people of Central Africa that the names of the dishes are considered a compliment. If someone looks very pretty, they will say “You look like ‘ndolé’, a typical food containing peanuts, boldo and bananas. Delight.
In a family tradition passed down from mouth to mouth, Bewes serves some of the dishes Milanetto learned at home. Since she was eight years old, she has helped her two other sisters at the stove. It was almost a commitment. Milanetto was not a professional cook or chef; Specialization came only later.
Today, African cuisine is created without borders. It’s a cultural revival in dishes like ndjab (spinach, ground shrimp, eggplant, corn fufu and meat), madiso (white beans with palm oil and rice, accompanied by meat, fish or chicken) and dje (fried ground plantains with vegetables and chicken). Sauces are also protagonists and accompaniments can change, explains Milanetto.
The Cameroonian’s success goes hand in hand with the achievements of black Brazilians, in her opinion. Milanito recalls that when he arrived in Brasilia, he saw few black people in restaurants or stores, except for the children of diplomats. In his vision, the process is slow, but changes are already happening.
“Looking at it as a foreigner, the situation has changed a lot. Today, black Brazilians can leave their hair black, wear printed clothes and present themselves in a more free way. There are still things to be done, but they are evolving.”
Experts say food has always been a source of income generation
questioned before condition On the importance of food for Black people, entrepreneur Adriana Barbosa, CEO of PretaHub, focused on accelerating Black entrepreneurship, recalling the legacy of Quituteiras, enslaved women who bought and maintained their freedom by selling delicacies in the 17th century.
“These days, it is increasingly common to have Latinos, Haitians and African immigrants in restaurant kitchens, but there are still few of them in leadership roles, as entrepreneurs in the sector,” says Adriana, who is also the founder of Feira. Brita, a cultural and entrepreneurship event.
“That’s why I’m so happy with the rise of chefs like Melanito Bioha, from Bios, Pichu Luambo, from Congolinaria Restaurant, Sam, from Mama Africa La Boni Bufi, and Cili, from Manden Paopa, among many others spread throughout Brazil.” as you say.
PretaHub has an accelerator and entrepreneurship training program called Afrolab, created in partnership with Coventry University in the UK and the British Council. The program assists in business management, including administration, finance, communications, marketing, and people management.
“Over the past few years of Vieira Prieta’s existence, we have identified the key needs in the journey of black entrepreneurs and developed a method that can recognize ancestral knowledge and the African diaspora, in line with the techniques of how to run a business,” says the entrepreneur.
* This content was produced in partnership with PretaHub, an accelerator and incubator for Black entrepreneurs
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