Originally from the Ivory Coast, N’Dri was forced to leave school at the age of 14 due to lack of funds. Five years ago, she decided to try her luck and get to work in France. But life is fast becoming hell for this young mother. She is without papers, without a permanent home … But thanks to the kitchen, her life changes and she starts smiling. N’Dri now integrates the best gastronomic school in France and she does not intend to stay there. The fifth and final episode of our summer series “Diasporas: cooking as a legacy”.
N’Dri Emeline, 34, welcomes us to Label Gamelle, a work integration company in the Paris region, where her life changed completely a few months ago. She invites us to travel to her native Ivory Coast by sharing her famous mafia recipe, not to mention the chili pasta that comes with it. “I chose the mafia because this dish represents me and reminds me of Africa. On the Ivory Coast, we eat the mafia a lot, ”explains N’Dri.
When N’Dri arrived at Label Gamelle in November 2020, she was a completely different person: “At first I was ashamed. I did not speak, I was even ashamed to eat in public! Thanks to the Label Gamelle team, I had the courage to express myself. I finally got my claws out and I am proud of my career ”.
But the road has not been easy for this single mother of three. Due to lack of funds, she has to leave school in CM2 to help her mother sell spices every day from 4:00 to 19:00 at the market in Ivory Coast. “It hurt a lot for me because I hoped that I would get a good job, salary and that it would get better by continuing to study. But that was not the case, says N’Dri with his eyes riveted on the ground.
Five years ago, tired of uncertainty, she decided to try her luck in France. When he came with a tourist visa and some savings, N’Dri quickly found himself homeless and paperless. Several months pregnant, she has to wait to give birth before she finally finds a place in an emergency room. She does odd jobs, but always with the hope that one day she can continue her passion. “I have always loved to cook!” exclaims N’Dri. “I started cooking at the age of ten with my mother. When I came here I was the moonlight, I cooked, I cleaned, I looked after children … I was even more motivated to become a chef. But I told myself that I did not know how to express myself so well, that I had neither a diploma nor an education … I told myself that if they did not take me into the kitchen, it was because I was only qualified to do cleaning or immersion ”.
Today, thanks to Label Gamelle, N’Dri has managed to get a contract in the kitchen of this integration company. The concept: provide meals in emergency centers, prepared by people like N’Dri, who themselves come from these homes. “I am very proud to be able to cook for my friends at the hostels and they are very happy with our dishes,” smiles N’Dri.
In the kitchen, the good smell of peanuts comes from the pot and attracts many curious among his colleagues, ready to taste the famous mafia N’Dri. Demba, his Malian colleague, can not help but ask for more. “It’s too good! I’ll eat everything!” Exclaims the young chef.
After getting this job, N’Dri, who spent four years homeless, managed to find his own home. She does not intend to stay there. In September, she joins the Ferrandi school, the best gastronomy training in France. His dream after graduating from the Ferrandi school: to open his own restaurant in the Ivory Coast. For N’Dri, cooking is now an integral part of his life: “Cooking saved me and it still helps me. I have always wanted to do this and I had the opportunity to continue my studies. I’m proud to be a woman in the kitchen and I love what I do ”.
The recipe for the Ivorian mafia by N’Dri:
1 kilo of beef
4 white onions
4 cloves of garlic
Akpi (to taste)
Fish powder (to taste)
400 g peanut paste
2 Maggi bouillon cubes
1 small jar of tomato puree
The spicy pasta:
3 white onions
6 garlic cloves
½ Maggi -cube
Red pepper powder (to taste)
1. Brown the beef in a large saucepan. Salt and add 2 tablespoons of water. Boil for 5 minutes on medium heat.
2. Add 2 liters of water and let the mixture boil. Add onions, garlic cloves, tomatoes, tomato puree. Let boil for another 5 minutes.
3. Add the peanut paste and cook for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes on medium heat.
4. Meanwhile, make the chili paste. Take a small saucepan, add rapeseed oil. Add finely chopped onion, tomatoes, garlic cloves and carrot. Fry for 10 minutes on medium heat. Add half a cube of Maggi broth and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the chili powder at the end.
5. When step 3 is complete, add the akpi seeds and the fish powder to the mafia. Let boil for 5 minutes.
6. Add the bouillon cubes and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
7. Remove from heat.
The cafe is eaten with rice or with feilou.