Creole Culinary Awards for 2014

When I wrote my cookbook, Food for the Soul – A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris (Elton Wolf Publishing, 2000), to pay tribute to my Creole heritage and the foods derived from that heritage, I described Creole cuisine as being born out of the same cultural mix that produced the people and the language of southern Louisiana.

So imagine my surprise when, upon moving to Paris 22 years ago, I discovered that Creole restaurants in the city served none of the dishes I had grown up with! These restaurants featured recipes from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion Island, Mauritius, and other far-flung places that I would never have thought to associate with the word “Creole.” Since my initial shock, I’ve eaten at many of them and thoroughly appreciate their fare.

Recently, I was intrigued to learn that there is a French organization devoted to the promotion of Creole culture, including its gastronomic traditions. Called the Creole World Institute, it held its first award ceremony on December 20, 2014 to celebrate the best of Creole cuisine in the Francophone world.

Trophées de l’Art Culinaire Créole award

Trophées de l’Art Culinaire Créole award

The goal of the Trophées de l’Art Cullinaire Créole (Trophies for Creole Culinary Art) award ceremony is to highlight the contributions that Creole cuisine has made and continues to make to French cuisine.

Award categories include:

Trophée Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur Trophy): for those who respect Creole culinary traditions and promote them through their preparation of traditional, modern, and innovative dishes

Trophée “avenir” (“Future” Trophy): for a young culinary professional who particularly distinguished himself or herself over the course of the last 1-2 years

Trophée d’Honneur (Trophy of Honor): for persons (whether culinary professionals or not) who demystify and passionately promote the recognition of Creole cuisine

Grand-Prix de l’Academie de l’Art Culinaire du Monde Créole (Grand Prize of the Culinary Art Academy of the Creole World): for a person selected by the Culinary Art Academy of the Creole World

Grand-prix d’Honneur de la l’Art Culinaire Créole (Grand Prize of Honor for Creole Culinary Art): for a person, institution, or geographical entity (city, region…) that has particular distinction in the domain of Creole culinary culture.

Prix d’Excellence (Excellence Prize): for a person who has devoted his or her life to the defense, promotion, recognition, and dissemination of knowledge about Creole cuisine.

The ceremony was organized under the patronage of France’s Ministry of Overseas Territories, the Department of Mayotte, which was recently named as a French territory, and the Paris Mayor’s office.

Babette de Rozières Winner of the Grand Prize of Honor

Babette de Rozières
Winner of the Grand Prize of Honor

The winners were presented to a crowd of approximately 300 persons. Among them was Babette de Rozières of Guadeloupe, who received the Grand Prize of Honor for Creole Culinary Art. De Rozières is a veritable icon and one of the few women who enjoy success in the culinary field. A restaurant owner, cookbook author, and culinary TV personality, she began her career by working in various posts in public television and radio, and cooking part time at some of the most prestigious hotels in Paris. She purchased her first restaurant in 1978, has co-hosted various television shows since 1988, and won an international award for her first cookbook—a four-volume set on Antillean cooking—in 2004. Her latest restaurant, La Case de Babette, is located in the Paris suburb of Maule.

The only other winner with a restaurant in the Paris area is Gustave Monpierre of Guadeloupe. He owns Doudou Kréyol in the Paris suburb of Alfortville. The remaining laureates hail from Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, and Reunion Island.

Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris!, author of Food for the Soul – A Texas Expatriate Nurtures Her Culinary Roots in Paris, and the editor of the free, weekly online publication Paris Insights – the Restaurant Reviews.

Your New Year’s Evolution

Your New Year’s Evolution

Have you already set your New Year’s resolutions? Or are you still thinking about what they will be?

Either way, I encourage you to stop and consider thinking about things in a new way!

Instead of resolving to make one or more huge modifications that are supposed to transform your life (and feeling guilty after you don’t even get through the first week of the year before reverting to your old habits), pick one, SMALL thing that you can work to change. Focus on this and reward yourself every time you act upon it.

What you’ll discover is that this “thing” will become easier and easier to do (or not do). Days will turn into weeks, weeks will turn into months, and before you know it, you’ll have achieved your goal. Best of all, you’ll have minimal stress, guilt, and anxiety along the way.

This is what I call a New Year’s EVOLUTION, and I believe it is a much more desirable aspiration than the traditional New Year’s resolution.

Evolution occurs little by little, over time. It is subtle, yet steady. In contrast, revolution occurs quickly, but it is often violent and painful. If you choose the path of evolution over revolution in your life, you’ll avoid overwhelm. More importantly, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

For example, instead of resolving to “stop procrastinating” this year, pick one thing that you procrastinate on, figure out why you avoid doing it, and create a plan to reduce, if not eliminate this tendency:

  • Ask yourself if there’s anyone else who could – or should – be doing this task instead of you. If the answer is yes, find that person and get him or her to work on it!
  • If delegation of the task is not an option, ask yourself if there’s anything that you like, or at least don’t dislike, about the thing you procrastinate on. List everything you can think of. The next time the pesky task comes along, focus on one or more of the things on this list when you tackle it.
  • If you can’t think of a single thing that will make the task more palatable for you, then make your reward for finishing it a big one – something that is sure to inspire you!

The most important thing to remember is that you want to take baby steps instead of quantum leaps when you look to make profound changes in your life. And you want to be sure to make yourself feel good with every step you take!

Monique Y. Wells is the founder of Making Productivity Easy and the Doing What Matters™ mentoring program.

Karen Pong

Karen Pong is the founder of Youth against Human Trafficking in Europe (YAHTE) and co-founder of the Youth Peace Ambassadors (YPA) Network of the Council of Europe YPA project. Born in Cameroon, she was raised in Greece and has lived and worked in France since 2010. She currently calls the northwestern Paris suburb of Asnieres-sur-Seine home.

Karen Pong – Another Peace Really Is Possible
Image courtesy of Karen Pong

Karen Pong – Another Peace Really Is Possible
Image courtesy of Karen Pong

The Youth Peace Ambassadors project promotes and supports the role of young people in peace-building activities that contribute to living together in dignity and dialogue through a network of specifically trained young people who strengthen the presence and promote the values of the Council of Europe in conflict-affected areas and communities. As an extension of YPA, Karen and others founded the YPA Network – an informal group of over seventy youth leaders from diverse backgrounds working for peace – during the first consolidation seminar of the YPA project held in Andorra. 

YAHTE seeks to inspire and harness the energy of young men and women between the ages of 12 and 30. It was born as a result of Karen’s frustration with trying to work with existing NGOs to implement her thoughts, ideas, and enthusiasm for human rights and peace activism. She reached out to a few existing organizations by sending letters and e-mails and even visited their offices, but got little more than cursory responses. She launched YAHTE in April 2013 after a mentor from YPA suggested that the best way to deal with this situation was to start her own organization.

Karen was born in the English-speaking city of Bamenda in the bilingual (French and English) nation of Cameroon. She lived for some time in the cities of Yaounde, Buea, Tiko, and Douala before moving to Athens, Greece at the age of twelve. This is where she attended high school and one year in an American college before transferring to the American University of Paris for her BA. Though her family still lives in Athens, Karen felt compelled to make France her home base because of a personal romantic relationship and her studies at the American University of Paris (double Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and International Economics with a Minor in International Law).

Because English is her native language, Karen is able to work as an English language trainer to support herself financially. She began by offering English lessons to children (3-12 years old – at times with babysitting) and to students preparing to sit for TOEFL exams. After months of struggling to establish herself as a teacher of professional clients, she secured a position at My Connecting English, a company that specializes in language training for professionals in companies all over Paris. She now works with upper and middle management professionals in some of the biggest companies in France, such as L’Oreal, Publicis, Caisses des Depots, and Havas Life. The work is compatible with her personality and she finds it to be wonderfully enriching.

When asked what advice she would give to “20-somethings” who want to move to France and build a life for themselves there, Karen recommended the following:

– Planning is key! Prepare a plan in which you set short term and long term goals for your new life.

– If you do not speak French, be sure to take some lessons to gain basic knowledge of the language before moving.

– Familiarize yourself with French immigration laws and policies.

– Reflect on your skills and competencies and think of how they could be assets when looking for a job. Check the possibilities of employment in France before moving.
Monique Y. Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the creator of Entrée to Black Paris tours.

The 100-Day Challenge – Finish Something in Your Business and Have Fun Doing It!

There are less than 100 days left until the end of 2014. Where has the time gone? And what’s on your business agenda that you still haven’t gotten around to doing?

People in the coaching and the Internet marketing world frequently issue a time-based challenge to their follows to encourage them to “get their butts in gear” and accomplish a languishing goal. Thirty (30)-day, 90-day, and 100-day challenges make their appearance in Facebook groups, e-mail blitzes, and other online marketing campaigns.

“Throwing down the gauntlet” in this fashion is particularly common during the first two weeks of the year and in the fall, when the end of the year is looming ahead and panic mode is still a month or so away.

One 100-day challenge issued in January 2014 was launched with the slogan “Get Insane Results Fast.” Depending on how you respond to such marketing copy, this is either an irresistible invitation or a reason to run as quickly and as far in the opposite direction as possible!

100-day Challenge Image by Making Productivity Easy

100-day Challenge
Image by Making Productivity Easy

I want to issue a gentler challenge – one that you will hopefully step up and embrace right now so that you navigate autumn with a sense of determination and adventure:

  • Pick a project that has stalled in your business.
  • Pick a date by which you intend to complete it.
  • Break it down into the steps required to accomplish it.
  • Then write down what you can do to make each and every step of the process FUN!

“Fun? In my business?”

If you’re scratching your head incredulously at this notion, then I encourage you to look at the last time you enjoyed doing something in your business. What was it? How frequently do you do it? How can you arrange things so you can spend more time doing it?

If you can find something enjoyable in each task you perform while you’re working, you’re much more likely to complete that task. You’re also likely to do it more quickly. This will move you along the sequence of steps required to achieve your goal with less effort, stress, and anxiety.

For the tasks you don’t enjoy, plan to give yourself an extra special reward for finishing them. (Remember that “finishing” them can also include outsourcing or otherwise delegating them, or even deciding that they don’t need to be done at all!)

Tell someone what you’re planning to do and check in with them to report your progress. That person can encourage you to finish so you can get your reward – and perhaps share it with you!

If this is a new concept for you, start small. Think “baby steps” and tackle one step at a time. This way, you will form new habits, create a long-term change in mindset, and get better results.

You can take a lot of baby steps in 100 days.

Monique Y. Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the founder of Making Productivity Easy and the Doing What Matters™ mentoring program.

Chef Alexandre Bella Ola Discover Paris!

Rio Dos Camarãos Restaurant

Rio Dos Camarãos is an African restaurant located in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil, about a five-minute walk from the metro station Robespierre.

The interior is simply decorated, but the elements that chef and owner Alessandro Bella Ola and his wife have chosen to embellish the large dining room are unmistakably African. Handsome cloths cover the tables and large and small dolls dressed in colorful cloth are placed throughout the restaurant. Color photographs of Africans hang on the walls.

We were greeted at the door of the restaurant by Chef Bella Ola, who invited us to take a table. There, we studied the menu that listed a wide range of traditional African dishes, including Mafé, Ndolé, and Yassa.

We shared an intriguing starter called Nyam ngond, which is a cake-like preparation of pumpkin seeds. It was presented as a flat disk resting on a mound of julienned carrot, zucchini, and cabbage. Instead of containing crunchy morsels of seeds, it was spongy and it had a flavor slightly reminiscent of fish broth. We later learned that it is a dish generally served as a main course on the day after family celebrations.

For the main course, I decided to try the national dish of Cameroon, called Poulet D. G. I received a sizzling-hot iron plate containing a copious portion of stewed chicken legs, plantains, leeks, and red and green bell peppers. The chicken was tender and juicy and the plantains were just sweet enough to add balance to the spices in the dish. The vegetables added color and texture to this heavenly preparation.

My dining partner settled on Mafé poulet fumé, otherwise known as smoked chicken in peanut sauce. He was presented with a dish containing a mound of fluffy, white rice and a steaming cast-iron pot containing chicken with carrot and cabbage smothered in peanut sauce. The chicken was tender, the vegetables flavorful, and the rich sauce tempting. Simply delicious!

The dessert menu offered some unusual choices. My partner loved the Tatin banane, a large slice of caramelized, upside-down banana pie served with two dollops of whipped cream. It was fashioned after the traditional Tarte des Demoiselles Tatin, a tart that is made with apples. The bananas were dense and chewy and tasted somewhat like the sun-dried bananas that one sometimes finds at specialty stores.

I sprang for Crème brulée au citron vert. It looked like a traditional crème brulée with its burnt-sugar crust, but it had the bright pick-me-up flavor of lime rather than the mellow-me-down flavor of vanilla. I quite enjoyed it.

Rio Dos Camarãos restaurant will celebrate twenty years of existence in November 2014.

Rio Dos Camarãos
55, rue Marceau
93100 Montreuil
Métro station: Robespierre (Line 9)

By Monique Y. Wells
Monique Y. Wells is the co-founder of Discover Paris! and the editor of the free, weekly online publication Paris Insights – the Restaurant Reviews.