The Cotonou Embassy was pleased to host American chef and entrepreneur Vallery Lomas from January 31 to February 4, 2022. During her visit, Ms. Lomas explored Beninese and American culinary ties, and in particular African influences on dishes from Ms. Lomas’ home state of Louisiana. She also shared lessons learned from her professional journey and other entrepreneurial ideas with Beninese culinary students, small business owners and American exchange program alumni.
In partnership with Oluwafèmi Kochoni (alumnus of the Young African Leadership Initiative Mandela Washington Fellowship), the U.S. Embassy hosted a national cooking competition for young Beninese chefs who were challenged to create dishes that explored the links between American and Beninese cuisine, where Ms. Lomas served as a guest juror. The winning dish was pancakes and fruit skewers in clove-flavoured Bissap syrup, prepared by Mrs. Lynne Yedjenou from Abomey-Calavi. Ms. Lomas also joined Valérie Vinakpon, founder and owner of the restaurant Saveurs du Bénin, to cook several dishes together. Dishes Mrs. Lomas prepared in Benin included jambalaya flavored with local celery leaves and prawn stew made with prawns from the local market.
A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ms. Lomas graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in psychology, French and law. However, her real passion was cooking, and she started a cooking blog while in law school documenting her culinary exploits, many of which are based on recipes from her mother and grandmothers. Ms. Lomas practiced law for eight years before deciding to work full-time in the culinary industry. She won Season 3 of The Great American Baking Show and wrote her first cookbook Life is What You Bake It in 2021.
Each year, the U.S. Embassy provides thousands of Beninese students, young professionals, civic leaders, and entrepreneurs with opportunities to meet and connect with Americans, based on strongly shared values and of a common interest for a peaceful and prosperous future.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the United States Embassy in Benin.