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The culinary entrepreneur settling the Jollof battle in West Africa

There have been various attempts to settle the Jollof food debate once and for all especially among some West African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Cameroon and Liberia.

These attempts have however largely only succeeded in creating further debates as to which country prepares the best Jollof.

Some have even gone ahead to describe the Jollof rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria as a war. But there is one and perhaps the only way of settling this debate.

A culinary entrepreneur and organizer of Jollof Festival in Ghana, Jay Gyebi believes the answer lies in celebrating the uniqueness of the Jollof from all West African Countries.

According to her there is no way the meal from each and every country will taste the same.

She said “I think that we need to understand, like Senegal, they have different ways of cooking their Jollof. Nigeria has their ways; in Ghana we have our way.

If you look at Senegal Jollof, it’s influenced by what they grow. They eat a lot of vegetables so you see carrots. They have roots so you see cassava and all those things.

They eat a lot of fresh fish so you see fresh fish in their meals. Each meal is affected by where the ingredients are grown naturally. It makes everybody’s taste unique and authentic.”

“There is nothing like this is better than the others.  If you break down the Jollof from all these countries, there are always tomatoes, there are always onions, there are always garlic and maybe ginger,” Gyebi added.

Jollof; a popular mean prepared with rice, tomato sauce and other spices depending on the country has on social media every now and then generated  threads of trolls among West Africans.

Jollof competition

There have been a number of competitions pitching countries against each other all in attempt to get the best Jollof.

Sierra Leone emerged tops at the 2019 Jollof Competition in held in Washington, District of Columbia (DC) last Month.

The West African country fended off stiff competition from Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana. Liberia placed second with Nigerian clinching the third spot and Ghana the last.

The outcome of the competition seemed to have poured cold water on the Jollof rivalry between Ghana and Nigeria but only for a while.

The most recent competition was a straight fight between Ghana and Nigerian organized in Ghana’s capital Accra in August.

Ghana emerged tops at that event organized by Promasidor Ghana Limted with judges drawn from Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.

After the competition the meal prepared by Chef Sika Mortoo from Ghana won with 92% as against Nigeria’s Chef Turay’s 75%.

Social Media on Fire

The outcome of the latest competition has once again set social media ablaze with Ghanaians not missing the opportunity to take a dig at Nigerians.

Twitter in particular has been inundated with trolls on the outcome.

Jay Gyebi however tells such fights are unnecessary. According to her, she used to join those fights both on social media and in person but not anymore.

“Why will a Nigerian fight with me and say my Jollof is better? I don’t fight those fights anymore honestly because they eat the rice they grew up on so they are used to that taste. I also eat the rice I grew up on.

We actually need to celebrate our Jollof honestly. We need to stop the fight on who makes the best Jollof. We need to start celebrating our Jollof for what it is. Our jollof is single grain, it’s delicious, orange color, lot of great soft protein and that’s it. Good to go.”

Jay Gyebi
Jay Gyebi and some of her workers at Mukase Chic. Photo: Facebook/ Jay Abrefi Gyebi

Jollof Festival

The Culinary Entrepreneur, Jay Abrafi Gyebi is however pushing Ghanaian Jollof to the forefront.

She is doing that with a festival instead of a competition, which is taking place in Ghana’s capital Accra. This year’s event is slated for August 31.

“It’s part of our objective to promote Ghanaian cuisine one at a time. We also hope that other food event organizers will be able to do festivals that celebrate our foods. It is really a beautiful gathering of people from all ages. We crown Jollof Queen and Jollof King and it’s such an exciting competition,” she stated.

Gyebi is embarking on a drive to push Ghana’s Jollof to other parts of Africa and the world at large.

According to her she is deploying many tools in achieving her goal of selling Ghana’s Jollof to the outside world.

“Personally and very importantly, I put myself out there in the media. My YouTube channel for example has ways that you can cook Jollof. I take people on tours too like Jollof spots to taste it. I do cooking classes.

My company organizes master classes and cooking classes. We teach expatriates, we teach mothers how to make Jollof for other people. We’re also currently working on a master class in South Africa next year where we are going to teach people how to make Jollof.”

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Origin of Jollof

Jollof is believed to have originated in the Senegambia region of West Africa among the Wolof people, where it is known as benachin.

The mouth-watering meal has travelled throughout the sub-region because of the frequent cultural exchange that goes on there, according to TheCultureTrip.

But the assertion is being challenged by Gyebi. According to her, rice was brought to West Africa by the British who colonized the then Gold Coast.

She is therefore questioning where the Wollof tribe of Senegal had rice for their now famous Jollof.

“I don’t want to say that Ghana owns Jollof but I have had very interesting conversations. The usual ones we know is that, Jollof is owned by the Senegalese because of the wollof blablabla. But I had a conversation with someone who said to me hey, Jay but we were the first to be colonized and the first to gain independence.

The British brought the rice to our town, how are they now telling us that they made Jollof with broken rice? Where did they get the rice from if it wasn’t for us? We are not losing our authenticity or whatever it is.” She argued.


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