Bravo TV’s Chef Eric and AYO Foods Introduce West African Foods
As a prominent Ghanaian-American, Eric Adjepong earned national renown as one of the most beloved Top Chef participants during Seasons 16 and 17.
During his time on the show, he explored uncharted territory to be the first contestant to put the spotlight on West African foods, flavors, and ingredients – which earned him much admiration and a tremendous fan base.
Eric’s passion for his cultural heritage was clearly evident during Top Chef, which means that many people won’t be surprised to find that he is now partnering with AYO Foods.
AYO Foods offers an authentic line of flavorful West Africa dishes that you can find at Whole Foods or Kroger, such as Jollof Rice and Puff Puff. Now AYO Foods is partnering with Chef Eric so consumers can enjoy even more West African flavors.
Realizing the deficit in knowledge and appreciation for traditional African ingredients and dishes has led to Adjepong’s dedication to embracing these foods – and bringing them to the masses.
His time on Top Chef was also defining because it transformed the way he approaches cooking. While reminiscing on the experience, he notes that, “I think I am bolder. I have a lot more confidence in the food I’m presenting.”
The appeal of Chef Eric partnering with AYO foods lies in the fact that the brand is sharing West African foods with mainstream consumers – something that has never been done on a national scale before. To help achieve this goal, Adjepong has developed two dishes for the AYO line.
The first, Waakye, is a flavorful Ghanaian dish composed of rice and beans. Adjepong is a huge fan of this dish, “I love Waakye. I like to call it the OG rice and peas.” But he recognizes that this is a relatively time-consuming dish to make from scratch.
But Adjepong took on the challenge and is proud to “take something that requires a lot of time to make and get people 90% of the way there.”
Adjepong’s second contribution to the line, Chicken Yassa, is indigenous to Senegal and includes a bed of rice covered with tender chicken and caramelized onions. He explains that, “With a lot of West African foods, it’s like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Then longer you let it sit and stew, the more the flavors developed.”
With both dishes, he tested recipes many times to nail down the method to get the flavors just right. And while the process was rigorous, Both AYO and Adjepong feel that it was required so that they could capture those complex and developed favors for people eating the foods at home.
As a child, Adjepong would have never expected to see West African foods like these readily available in the freezer aisle of the local grocery store. “I would have freaked out as a kid. Representation matters. Even if I wasn’t a chef, I would feel super proud to see something like this in the freezer.” As the father of a two-year-old daughter, he recognizes the importance of what he and AYO Foods are accomplishing.
AYO means “joy” in Yoruba, and Adepong’s connection with owners Fred and Petreet Spencer must have been meant to be since all parties have a similar goal.
Talking of their relationship, Adjepong says, “We’re at a point in our careers where we’re channeling the same thing, which is really trying to share and spread awareness about African foods and foods in the Diaspora so everyone across the US can enjoy and tap into these flavors.”
This team is truly bringing West African foods to the masses so that everyone can easily enjoy these unique flavors in healthy and nutrient-packed dishes.