Meeting the Ambassador’s Chef
Meeting Chef André, heading the Résidence of France’s kitchens.
After graduating from the hotel school of Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Chef André Ahiba learned the ropes in high-end establishments in Nice (Hôtel Negresco) and Abidjan (Hilton and Tiama Hotels). He arrived in Pretoria in 1995 as a chef at the embassy of Ivory Coast. Then, he spent two years working as a kitchen assistant at the fancy restaurant “La Brasserie de Paris”. In 2001, he joined the kitchen of the Residence of France, which he has managed since 2008.
- Do you have a special memory linked to your childhood ?
As a child, I remember my father cooking on Sundays. He would tell my mother to take her day off and would cook all day. The meals were always delicious, even the neighbors asked to have some ! I think this is what made me want to become a chef.
- What is your first memory as a cook ?
At the end of my studies, I won the first prize in a cooking competition organized by the school [ed : the hotel school of Abidjan], which made me head of the class.
- What is your favourite flavor ?
Savoury dishes, without hesitating ! I am more a cook than a pastry chef. But I have to say that, even if I found it hard at the beginning, today I like to prepare desserts.
- What is your favourite meal ?
I like meat a lot, especially lamb and duck. Grilled, roasted, sauté, I like everything. So I can say I am happy in South Africa !
- During your experience as a chef, what has impressed you the most ?
During a training workshop at the Quai d’Orsay [ed : French ministry of Foreign affairs], I was really touched by the compliments from Chef Thierry Sabine, who was then managing the ministry’s kitchens. He told me he was impressed by my knowledge, while before to participate in this workshop I was afraid I would not be able to meet the expectations.
- What advice would you give to a home cook ?
First of all, it’s important to choose products carefully, always prioritizing quality.
It’s also essential to take time, to respect the cooking time in particular. If the recipe says to cook slowly during 1 hour, don’t try to cheat cooking less time with a stronger fire. If you don’t respect the cooking time, the result won’t be as expected.