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Tastes from Africa: Featuring Senegalese Chef Pierre Thiam

On Friday, April 12th, NYU Africa House and NYU Torch Club hosted a book signing and buffet luncheon featuring culinary recipes from around the continent by acclaimed Senegalese Chef Mr. Pierre Thiam, author of the book: “YOLELE! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal”

Chef Pierre Thiam

Pierre Thiam is a chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. He was raised in Dakar, Senegal, a cosmopolitan city on the west coast of Africa. This bustling and culturally diverse city sparked his interest in the culinary arts at an early age. After graduating from the Physics and Chemistry Department of C. A. Diop University, Thiam moved to New York in the late eighties and started working in various restaurants in the city.

In 2003, Thiam opened his first restaurant, Yolele, a visionary African bistro that received great acclaim and reviews from the leading media. His second restaurant, Le Grand-Dakar Restaurant, opened in 2004 and quickly became a cultural hub for the African diaspora in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Thiam now runs a successful catering company, Pierre Thiam Catering, which introduces a diverse, upscale New York clientele to a unique, contemporary take on ethnic flavors. Currently, Thiam serves as consulting chef at Soho’s Boom Restaurant and soon to be open Meridian 23, both in New York City.

In addition to his work as a chef, Thiam gives lectures and cooking classes at venues such as the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE), The French Culinary Institute, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Natural Gourmet Institute and Google Headquarters. In 2011, he was a guest of North Carolina Central University as part of a State Department program, involving visitors from Guatemala and Mexico, showcasing the influence of African food in South America. In May 2012, Thiam was a guest chef at the Havana Biennial (Cuba) and in June 2012, he received ATA’s Development of Responsible Tourism Award in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe).

His cookbook, Yolele! 

Recipes from the Heart of Senegal (Lake Isle Press, 2009), was nominated as one of three finalists for the Julia Child Cookbook Award 2009 at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in Denver. In February 2010, it won the Gourmand World Cookbook’s Special Jury Award at the Paris World Cookbook Fair.

Thiam has appeared on several TV and radio programs, including the Food Network’s Iron Chef, Gourmet Getaways, Sara’s Secrets, ABC’s Eyewitness News, Fox 5 Good Day NY, NBC’s TODAY, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and NPR’s Splendid Table. He was also profiled on CNN’s Inside Africa. Thiam lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, Umaimah, and their three children.