Embassy Cotonou 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 links, and especially African influences on dishes from Ms. Lomas’s home state of Louisiana. She also shared lessons learned from her career journey and other entrepreneurial insights with Beninese culinary students, small business owners, and U.S. 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 national cooking contest for young Beninese chefs who were challenged to create dishes exploring the links between U.S. and Beninese cuisine, where Ms. Lomas served as a guest juror. The winning dish was pancake and fruit brochettes with a clove-flavored Bissap syrup, prepared by Ms. 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 Ms. Lomas prepared while in Benin included jambalaya flavored with local celery leaves and shrimp étouffée made with gambas from the local market.
Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Ms. Lomas graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in psychology, French and law. However, her true passion was cooking, and she started a cooking blog during law school documenting her culinary exploits, many based on her mother and grandmothers’ recipes. Ms. Lomas practiced law for eight years before deciding to pursue working in the culinary industry full-time. 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 opportunities for thousands of Beninese students, young professionals, civic leaders, and entrepreneurs to meet and exchange views with Americans, based on strongly shared values and a common interest in a peaceful and prosperous future. For more information on U.S. Embassy grant and exchange opportunities, as well as resources and activities open to the public at American Spaces in Cotonou, Abomey-Calavi, Parakou and Porto Novo, visit our website at https://bj.usembassy.gov/fr/ or follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/usembassybenin.