In the kitchen, few cultures mingle as effortlessly as the flavors of Africa and Latin America. Think of the common ground ingredients—from plantains to peppers, tropical fruits to tubers. And there are a fair amount of chefs influenced by both cultures as well: some who specialize in the overlap, and others who have used the blend as building blocks, as it’s simply a part of their heritage. Here are just a few African/Latin chefs making their mark in the US.
It’s no mystery why Govind Armstrong’s name is synonymous with California cuisine; the LA-based chef started in the kitchen of Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at the age of 13. But despite the influence that Puck and Los Angeles exerted on his cooking, Armstrong told Time Out magazine that he “craves” the food he grew up with in Costa Rica. In the professional kitchen, he nods to the soul food of the southern US at restaurants Post & Beam and Willie Jane, and does true-blue American proud at his 8 ounce Burger Bars.
Nilton Borges, Jr.
Rio de Janeiro native Nilton Borges, Jr., “Junior,” as he likes to be called, has said that his grandmother had a heavy influence on his palate as a child. She came from Salvador da Bahia, the hub of Afro-Brazilian culture in the country, serving Junior dishes such as caruru, a shrimp and okra stew. Today, however, he favors the flavors of the Mediterranean at New York City’s Amali, wowing critics with his fresh, sustainably-driven cuisine. Wine and Spirits magazine called the restaurant a “New and Notable Newcomer,” and the ambitious Borges has also had the honor of cooking at the James Beard Foundation.
Next, three more chefs to watch...