Thursday, October 16, 2014

Return to Ohinéné

I first wrote about Ohinéné last June, after Tom and I dined there upon the recommendation of a friend who lives nearby. We recently returned to celebrate the success of Tom's e-book, Dining Out in Paris, because Ohinéné is one of the twelve restaurants featured in it!

Ohinéné restaurant
© Discover Paris!

Edith (co-owner and chef) and Jean-Benoit (co-owner and part-time server) were as cheerful and welcoming as ever.

Edith Gnapié and Jean-Benoit Chauveau, co-owners
© Discover Paris!

We were surprised to see an image of their son Owen on a poster in the window on rue Orfila as we approached the front door:

Y'a bon, BISSAP
© Discover Paris!

It tells passersby that Ohinéné serves wonderful bissap (a soft drink made from hibiscus flowers). I can testify to this because Tom and I both ordered it the last time we dined here and we loved it.

© Discover Paris!

This time, we elected to try Edith's fresh ginger juice and were equally impressed. It is the best I've tasted in Paris!

Ohinéné still serves French cuisine at lunchtime, as the menu behind the counter shows. They've even begun serving burgers, which have become ubiquitous in Paris restaurants.

Lunch menu
© Discover Paris!

But at night, cuisine from Côte d'Ivoire reigns! Edith almost always prepares a dish that is braised and smothered with a vibrant array of chopped veggies.

Special of the day
© Discover Paris!

And Jean-Benoit is proud of the top quality mangoes that he selects for dessert.

Fresh mango
© Discover Paris!

Read about Edith and Jean-Benoit's story in Dining Out in Paris.

14, rue de la Chine
75020 Paris
Telephone: 01 71 20 67 62
Metro: Pelleport (Line 3bis)or Gambetta (Line 3)


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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Two Black Men at the Institut de France

A couple of weeks ago, writer Dany Laferrière participated in Festival AMERICA. He is the first black person since Léopold Sédar Senghor to be elected to the Académie Française (French Academy - the organization that is responsible for the protection of the French language)*. He is also the first member who is neither French, naturalized French, nor a resident of France. His coming investiture was announced on December 13, 2013, and he will be officially inducted into the august institution in 2015. He will occupy the chair vacated by Hector Bianciotti, who died in 2012.

Dany Laferrière during the Salon du Livre in Paris (2010)
Creative Commons Attribution - Georges Seguin (Okki)

Laferrière is a native of Haïti who immigrated to Montreal in 1976 to escape the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc). A prolific writer, he has published over twenty books to date - using a Remington typewriter that purportedly belonged to Chester Himes. Hemingway, Henry Miller, and Baldwin are among the writers who have influenced him.

In 1985, he exploded onto the Quebeçois literary scene with his first novel Comment faire l’amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer (How to Make Love to a Negro without Getting Tired). In 1989, the book was made into a film, which was boycotted by the NAACP.

Book cover - Comment faire l'amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer

Laferrière lived in Miami, Florida between 1990 and 2002, then returned to Montreal, where he lives today. He was in Haïti during the 2010 earthquake and wrote his book Tout Bouge Autour de Moi (The World is Moving around Me) from the notes he took during the hours and days after the disaster struck. Published in 2010 by Memoirs d'encrier in Montreal and a year later by the prestigious Paris editor Grasset, it provides an intimate look at the strength and dignity of the Haïtian people in the face of disaster.

A winner of numerous literary awards in Canada since 2009, Laferrière was named Officier de l'Ordre National du Québec (National Order of Quebec) in 2014. This is described as the highest honor in Quebec.

A couple of days prior to the announcement about Dany Laferrière - at 3:00 PM on December 11, 2013, to be exact - sculptor Ousmane Sow became the first black and the first African to occupy a chair at the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts)*.

Ousmane Sow
Image from

During his acceptance speech, the 78-year old Sow paid tribute to his continent, to his predecessor, Senghor, and to Nelson Mandela:

As was my colleague and fellow Senegalese Leopold Sedar Senghor, who was elected to the French Academy thirty years ago [2 June 1983], I am an Africanist. In this spirit, I dedicate this ceremony to the whole of Africa, it's Diaspora, and the great man who recently left us, Nelson Mandela...

Arriving in Paris at the age of 22, Sow began his life here by working odd jobs before studying to become a physical therapist. He repatriated Senegal when it gained its independence. He began sculpting in earnest at the age of 50 and began showing his works in Dakar.

The year 1999 brought the "tipping point" in Sow's career with the magnificent exposition of his African wrestlers and warriors as well as pieces from his Battle of Little Big Horn series on the Pont des Arts, which stretches across the river between the Louvre and the Institut de France. Seventy-five sculptures were viewed by more than 3,000,000 visitors during this show.

Ousmane Sow - Pont des Arts Catalog Cover

Part of the Little Big Horn collection was shown at the Whitney Museum in New York in 2003.

Sow was unanimously elected to the Academy. He takes the chair of the American painter Andrew Wyeth (1906-2001). The Tunisian fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa created the ceremonial costume that he wore to his investiture. He designed the pommel for the ceremonial sword himself. The first lady of Senegal, Madame Marième Faye Sall, presented the sword to him.

To view photos of the ceremony, click here.

*The Académie Française and the Académie des Beaux-Arts are part of the Institut de France (French Institute). The institute is responsible for the management of several foundations and cultural venues, including museums and historic monuments in France and abroad.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

ETBP Interviews Karen Pong – Youth Peace Ambassador

Karen Pong is the founder of Youth against Human Trafficking in Europe (YAHTE) and co-founder of the Youth Peace Ambassadors (YPA) Network of the Council of Europe YPA project. Born in Cameroon, she was raised in Greece and has lived and worked in France since 2010. She currently calls the north-western Paris suburb of Asnieres-sur-Seine home.

Karen Pong – Another Peace Really Is Possible
Image courtesy of Karen Pong

Karen has traveled throughout the world to pursue her passion for human rights and peace education. Some of the nations she has visited are Bulgaria, China, Canada, Hungary, Norway, and Syria. Her first serious endeavor with regard to human rights activism came with the crisis in Darfur:

In 2008, I became very concerned by the crisis in Darfur. Together with some classmates, we started an awareness campaign on China’s dual role in this crisis. We organised a conference on campus as well as a peace march from AUP to the Peace Monument at Champs de Mars in Paris, and we were present to protest on Champs Elysées on the day the Olympic torch was carried by athletes on its way to Beijing for the competition. This was my first step towards active participation in civil society. It has grown and intensified with time.

The Youth Peace Ambassadors project promotes and supports the role of young people in peace-building activities that contribute to living together in dignity and dialogue through a network of specifically trained young people who strengthen the presence and promote the values of the Council of Europe in conflict-affected areas and communities. As an extension of YPA, Karen and others founded the YPA Network – an informal group of over seventy youth leaders from diverse backgrounds working for peace – during the first consolidation seminar of the YPA project held in Andorra.

YAHTE seeks to inspire and harness the energy of young men and women between the ages of 12 – 30. It was born as a result of Karen’s frustration with trying to work with existing NGOs to implement her thoughts, ideas, and enthusiasm for human rights and peace activism. She reached out to a few existing organizations by sending letters and e-mails and even visited their offices, but got little more than cursory responses. She launched YAHTE in April 2013 after a mentor from YPA suggested that the best way to deal with this situation was to start her own organization.

Karen’s long-term career goal is to join Interpol as a Criminal Intelligence Officer to combat human trafficking. Though a primary criterion for acceptance at Interpol is law enforcement experience, other factors such as relevant work experience and educational background are taken into consideration. Karen wants to challenge the requirement for law enforcement training and aspires to join the organization without it. She plans to continue acquiring hands-on experience in the field of human trafficking through YAHTE and believes that her engagement in human rights and peace education will provide her with skills and competencies that could be translated into the work of Interpol. She believes strongly in the role that youth can play in the prevention of human trafficking and would like to see this taken into consideration.

Karen was born in the English-speaking city of Bamenda in the bilingual (French and English) nation of Cameroon. She lived for some time in the cities of Yaounde, Buea, Tiko, and Douala before moving to Athens, Greece at the age of twelve. This is where she attended high school and one year in an American college before transferring to the American University of Paris for her BA. Though her family still lives in Athens, Karen felt compelled to make France her home base because of a personal romantic relationship and her studies at the American University of Paris (double Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and International Economics with a Minor in International Law).

Because English is her native language, Karen is able to work as an English language trainer to support herself financially. She began by offering English lessons to children (3-12 years old – at times with babysitting) and to students preparing to sit for TOEFL exams. After months of struggling to establish herself as a teacher of professional clients, she secured a position at My Connecting English, a company that specializes in language training for professionals in companies all over Paris. She now works with upper and middle management professionals in some of the biggest companies in Paris, and in France, such as L’Oreal, Publicis, Caisses des Depots, and Havas Life. The work is compatible with her personality and she finds it to be wonderfully enriching.

Karen has often been asked about the origin of her last name – Pong – which is of Asian origin. As far as she knows, her entire lineage is Cameroonian. Her grandfather, Thomas Pong, is from a village called Mmen in the Menchum Division, NW of Cameroon, and she supposes that “Pong” is also a Cameroonian name. She shared the following anecdote about it:

In 2007, I went to China as part of an international youth volunteering activity via an organization called “i-to-I” based in the UK – I discovered this idea during my study abroad at UCLA. I was to be cultural volunteer working at the Terra Cotta Warriors Museum for one month. When I arrived to the airport in Xi’an, the host who came to pick me up loitered around me for over 40 minutes, not thinking that I was Karen Pong. Once we were able to find each other, he explained to me that he was expecting an Asian girl. Oh, what a surprise!

For leisure, Karen likes to read when she can find the time. She enjoys going to parks – big ones like the Champs de Mars and the Luxembourg Garden – as well as small neighborhood and community parks. She loves that Paris has beautiful green outdoors spaces where she can sit and read a novel, eat a sandwich during her lunch break, and picnic with friends. She also likes evening hang-outs over wine and apéritifs or just laying down to soak up the sun on one of Paris’ random hot and sunny autumn or spring days.

Eiffel Tower viewed from the Champs de Mars
© Discover Paris!

She ranks the 7th arrondissement as her favorite part of Paris, largely because she studied at AUP, which is on avenue Bosquet in the 7th. She spent nearly 5 years in this area between Invalides and Bir-Hakeim and is still quite attached to it – she frequently visits the AUP campus to benefit from alumnus privileges:

Despite being in the center of Paris, the 7th is a very residential neighborhood that is always full of life.

The area where the university is based is very vibrant with a youthful vibe. There are busy shops and restaurants, bars/brasseries, boulangeries and charcuteries, AUP students running back and forth to lessons, babysitters picking up kids from school…

It is a short walk from many interesting sites like the Eiffel Tower. There is also the famous rue Cler with yummy restaurants like Tribeca.

When asked what advice she would give to “20-somethings” who want to move to France and build a life for themselves here, Karen had no shortage of counsel! She recommends the following:

- Planning is key! Prepare a plan in which you set short term and long term goals for your new life. Be realistic – do not set goals that you will not be able to achieve for reasons such as the language barrier. Prepare a contingency plan in case things do not go as originally conceived.

- If you do not speak French, make sure to take some lessons to gain basic knowledge of the language before moving. Make plans to take language courses once you move – either through schools/universities or associations.

- Familiarize yourself with French immigration laws and policies (online on a website called “Services Publics”). Upon arrival, locate your local Prefecture to regularize your stay. This is very important for non-EU citizens. Keep this in mind because there are strict deadlines to respect that if not respected could cost you your stay in the country.

- Reflect on your skills and competencies and think of how they could be assets when looking for a job. Check the possibilities of employment in France before moving.

France is a wonderful country rich in EVERYTHING – the culture, the people, the heritage, the landscape, the lifestyle! It is full of opportunities for young people who are eager and perseverant. There may be bumps along the way, but from my experience, they can be overcome.

You can succeed in realizing your dreams by moving to France with the right amount of motivation and enthusiasm combined with a dose of hard work, which can sometimes seem endless. It is always easier to enjoy your time here as a student. But any young person who comes prepared, at least at a minimum, has chances on their side to build the life they desire to live in France.


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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Celebrating Creole Cuisine

This year's Fête de la Gastronomie (Gastronomy Festival) will include three days of celebration of Creole cuisine.

L'Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole (Culinary Art Academy of the Creole World) was created to promote Creole cuisine in France. Because this cuisine is considered part of French gastronomy, it is protected by UNESCO as part of the world's Intangible Cultural Heritage. Yet it has its own history and culinary traditions to promote and respect.

Banner for L'Académie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole

One of the Academy's missions is to ensure a standard of quality in Creole cooking that inspires the confidence of the general public. It has created a charter, a log, and a label through which it intends to sensitize consumers to the presence of products in the marketplace that are certified Creole and that respect ancestral culinary traditions.

The Academy has participated in the Fête de la Gastronomie since the festival's inception in 2012. It is partnering with the, a start-up company that specializes in recruitment for the hospitality sector, to create online media buzz for Kréole en Fête (Celebrating Créole) - the Academy's contribution to the 2014 festivities. This initiative allows restaurants to enhance their visibility by vigorously promoting their most appetizing recipes during the festival. It will take place on September 26, 27, and 28.

Bouchons saucisses from La Charrette Créole chez Sylvain
© Discover Paris!

Georges Garnier*, alias Joby, is president of the Academy. interviewed him at Academy headquarters - 94, rue Vitruve, Paris 20e - as part of the promotion. Garnier presented the organization, what constitutes Créole food, and where it comes from. He explained that Créole cuisine is not limited to the French Antilles, but rather includes cuisine from the entire Caribbean as well as islands in the Indian Ocean.

Garnier also talked about some of the Academy's projects, including what's in store for the public during the Fête. Several Créole restaurants will take up the challenge of creating an entrée (first course), plat principal (main dish), and / or a dessert in conjunction with the theme "herbs and spices." The chef must use authentic Créole ingredients to honor and promote the local suppliers of these products as well as take special care regarding the ambiance of the restaurant and the presentation of the dish.

The winning menu will be published in the ACMC magazine, the first edition of which was published in February 2014. Click on the caption beneath the image of the cover below to see its contents.

Cover of ACMC Magazine - Premier edition (February 2014)

Fourteen restaurants in Paris and neighboring towns will participate in the Fête:

La Canne à Sucre
6 bis, rue Etex
Paris (75018)
01 42 26 51 28

La Charrette Créole chez Sylvain
15, rue Chaplain
Paris (75006)
01 43 26 03 10

Ilet Créole
14, rue Mercœur
Paris (75011)
01 71 70 64 66

Caffé Créole
62, boulevard Beaumarchais
Paris (75011)
01 55 28 50 76

Restaurant Le Payenké
8, rue Paul Henri Grauwin
Paris (75012)

Douceurs Métissees
148, avenue du Maine
Paris (75014)
06 31 19 50 11

Spécialités Antillaises Ménilmontant chez Max
14-16, rue boulevard de Belleville
Paris (75020)
01 43 58 31 30

La Créoline
5, Villa Léonard De Vinci
Épinay-sous-Sénart (91860)
06 19 05 94 77

La Bloggeuse du Rhum
116, rue Maurice Arnoux
Montrouge (92120)
07 50 40 24 18

Sandrine Cuisine Façon Créole
61/63, avenue du 14 Juillet
Bondy (93140)
06 13 05 34 72

Bwe & Manje
18, rue Jean-Jaurès
Bondy (93140)
06 27 76 61 49

DouDou Kreol
183, rue Paul Vaillant Couturier
Alfortville (94140)
01 56 20 33 38

Plézi Karayib
3, rue Henri Sellier
Villeneuve-Saint-Georges (94190)
01 83 76 03 60

Bette Kreyol
1, rue du Docteur Calmette
Limeil-Brévannes (94450)
07 78 32 22 92

Kréole en Fête culminates with a free event that is open to the general public on Sunday, September 28, in Paris. It will take place at the Salon Olympe de Gourges, 15, rue Merlin in the 11th arrondissement. Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM.

Find the Academy on Facebook here: l'Academie de l'Art Culinaire du Monde Créole

*Garnier is also the director of the annual Carnaval Tropical, which has been organized in Paris since 2001.


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