Chef Eric Adjepong and AYO Foods bring culinary joy with flavorful food, interview

Chef Eric Adjepong for AYO Foods, photo provided by AYO Foods
Chef Eric Adjepong for AYO Foods, photo provided by AYO Foods /

While Chef Eric Adjepong sparked a conversation about African Diaspora while on Top Chef that food discussion didn’t disappear after he packed his knives. Showing how and why African flavors and recipes have and will continue to influence food on the plate is a bigger part of the culinary conversation. Through this partnership with AYO Foods, more people will get a taste of those recipes and will have a greater appreciation for that food journey.

Food trends ebb and flow. The reality is that just because one culture uses a particular name for a dish or ingredient doesn’t mean that there isn’t a similar flavor or concept in a different culture. The thread that ties food together isn’t limited to the verbal description. Truthfully, the sentiment that connects people to food is universal.

Recently, Chef Adjepong partnered with AYO Foods to expand its line. Building on the founders’ family recipes, the two new dishes are Waakye (Beans and Rice) and Chicken Yassa. While the names might not be on the tip of the tongue, the reality is that these flavors will bring people to the table.

As AYO Founder, Perteet Spencer said, “the African Diaspora is a rich culinary web that connects cultures across the globe and we’re passionate about sharing these recipes with those looking for a comforting taste of home.”

That sentiment about a taste of home resonates through the AYO Foods line. It is more than just introducing people to a new food or flavor. It is about creating a feeling one dish at a time.

AYO Foods West African recipes
Chef Eric Adejong recipes AYO foods, photo provided by AYO Foods /

Chef Eric Adjepong shares why he choose to partner with AYO Foods.

While Chef Adjepong had a successful culinary career before Top Chef, his appearance on that food television show, and other shows, has afforded him the opportunity to be a strong voice in the culinary community. While his food on the plate always impresses, it is more than just executing the perfect bite. It is about expanding people’s understanding of the hows and whys food is connected to culture.

During a recent conversation with Chef Adjepong, he commented that the “globalization of food is amazing. The influences of different cultures” is everywhere and it is now a great time to embrace all the vibrant offerings on the table.

He believes that AYO Foods found the perfect balance of championing traditional flavors and recipes, while finding a way to make it approachable to those people just staring that culinary journey. While “the recipes deliver on the traditional sense,” there is the vibrancy and attractiveness that entices people to learn more.

While the flavors in these AYO Foods are bold, the reality is that the stories that they tell are simple. Chef Adjepong said, these dishes are about “bringing families together.” Those “simple joys” offer “a moment of clarity, a moment of peace, a moment of fun.” While all those sentiments come over a plate of food, that mission has a lasting impact long after the meal is finished.

While feelings and sentiments can connect people around the table, the reality is that people are more welcoming of the experience. Chef Adjepong appreciates that “our neighborhoods and communities have become so eclectic.” Even though he is a professional chef, his approach of letting ingredients spark that curiosity is a concept that anyone can adapt. From there, anything is possible.

From this partnership to his own endeavors, Chef Adjepong has a purpose. He said, “I really want to do a great job to celebrate food, different regions, different groups of communities, and represent Africa and African cuisine.” While he is extremely passionate about this type of food, he truly believes that once people taste these dishes, they will become enthralled with the flavors and stories on the plate. More importantly, he believes that they will become part of people’s palate.

And, since people need a great dish to start this culinary journey, Chef Adjepong recommends the chicken yassa. For those unfamiliar with this dish, he describes the flavors as “hints of lemon and mustard, ginger and garlic.” The braising gives “a beautiful texture on that chicken.” Served with jasmine rice and a mustard yellow onion sauce, it is the perfect accompaniment.

If that food description has made you hungry, the Chicken Yassa and the other dishes from the AYO Foods line are available at various retailers included Whole Foods, Kroger and more.

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Which West Africa dishes are you excited to try? Do you find that certain foods and flavor cross cultures?