Self-trained West African chef receives coveted Michelin Star
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- Published on March 9, 2023
- Last Updated May 15, 2023
- In Places
Cooking was a second choice for the Benin native after her career as an interpreter didn’t go as planned.
Georgiana Viou moved to Paris from her native country of Benin with hopes of becoming an interpreter. Instead of erasing language barriers, the self-taught chef just received the coveted Michelin Star award.
Viou received recognition for her cuisine at “Rouge,” a restaurant in the southwestern French city of Nimes. Out of the 44 chefs that were awarded during Monday’s ceremony, Viou was the only woman that runs her kitchen alone. According to The Grio, the 45-year-old chef describes her cuisine as “a mix of French Mediterranean perfumed with notes recalling her home country.”
Viou left her home country at the age of 33. She relocated to France in 1999 to study languages at the Sorbonne. Her career plans began to take form, and Viou joined a communications agency in the southern port city of Marseille. Unpredictable life events forced her to change directions and pursue her second passion: cooking.
Her mother, who owned a restaurant in Cotonou, Benin, instilled the chef’s love of the culinary arts during her childhood. She has repurposed those lessons in the several books she has penned about Benin’s cooking.
Viou worked her way through kitchens in Marseille, stepping higher and higher on the chef’s ladder with each position. In a recent interview with the French outlet, Terrafemina, she spoke about what she observed working in the white-male-dominated world. She mentioned how her “maturity” helped her cope when trained by younger chefs.
She added that she dislikes being categorized because of her gender or skin color, saying that “it’s completely ridiculous to be considered ‘a la mode’ for being a Black female chef. She wants to be judged for what’s on the plate she serves.”
Her culinary talents landed her in Nimes, where she joined Rouge in June 2021. The following year Viou sat in the judges seat on Fox’s hit culinary competition show, MasterChef.
During the award ceremony, Viou was surprised that she was chosen to receive the award.
“Today is really top. This is cool,” Viou said. “I’ll find myself among lots of chefs, an occasion for encounters, not for the bestowal of a star.”
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