A wonderful surprise!
On the night I was dumbstruck. All I could muster was thank you, thank you, thank you.
It was clear to those around me upon the announcement and to those handing me this award that I did not expect it. I was shocked, surprised, thrilled, elated and unprepared.
So I didn’t say much about what it meant. I couldn’t.
This is what I wish I’d said:
Africa is the final frontier of food. Our traditional dishes, ingredients and techniques have been passed down for centuries and yet we can elevate and evolve what we do even further. We can do that without compromising its authenticity or provenance. Our food can be fine dining and that’s not selling out and it doesn’t make it any less black, or less African.
This is new Africa!
We are new Africa..
The world is yet to experience all that our content has to offer to contribute to share. We can do home cooking, we can do casual dining, fast casual, diner, bistro, contemporary casual or fine dining, so let’s not put ourselves in a box, or worse let anyone else put us there.
There’s a lot of talk about migrants in the news and it’s easy to divorce oneself from the plight of others, unless you can to walk in their shoes or even know one. I am a migrant.
Migration is not a crime, and as a black woman of Sierra Leonean origin trying to make it in the food industry I can tell you it is not easy. We do face barriers, unconscious bias, and do have to push twice as hard. I’m proudly African, I am British and I am black. There are cultural differences, behaviours, beliefs, customs, traditions, language and expressions that are both fascinating and at time challenging, but I know there is a richness in diversity and much to love.
I am also really clear that we must work to eliminate racial disparities and improve outcomes for everyone. Where there is a need we much change policies, practices, systems, and structures by prioritizing measurable change in the lives of people of colour. Be Inclusive Hospitality was established with a vision to create a Hospitality sector that is Equitable and Inclusive for Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities at all levels. Their goal is to support the upward social mobility of 10,000 employees and 2,000 business owners from our community by 2026. Please do check out their website: https://bihospitality.co.uk/
So I was thrilled to win the Award for African food. This is my space. I am proud to have one it for myself and for Sierra Leone. I am also proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with BE Inclusive and demand equity, because every person, everywhere, should have an equal chance to live up to their full potential.