Self-taught Chefs Win Michelin Guide Star

03:13 March 9, 2023

Self-taught Chefs Win Michelin Guide Star

Georgiana Viou is self-taught chef, or cook, from the west African country of Benin. She moved to France in hopes of becoming a translator.

Instead, she opened a restaurant there.

On Monday, her restaurant was awarded a star by the Michelin Guide. A restaurant is considered highly respected if it is awarded a star by the Michelin guidebook.

Viou’s restaurant is called Rouge. It is in the southwestern French city of Nimes.

Viou was not the only self-taught chef to get the award this year. A chef who studied literature, David Degoursy, and pastry chef Jeanne Satori, with a degree in sustainable development, also won a star for their restaurant de:ja. That is in Strasbourg, in eastern France, where the yearly awards ceremony was held.

Of the 44 new Michelin stars given out this year, Viou's is the only one won by a single woman. Several other women were honored as part of a team, like Satori, the pastry chef at de:ja.

Viou, who is 45-years-old, has said her cuisine is a mix of French Mediterranean and Beninese food. She has written several books about Benin's cooking.

Becoming a chef was a backup plan for Viou. She came to France in 1999 to study languages at Sorbonne University in Paris, hoping to become a translator. But after working at a communications company, her life changed directions. At age 33, cooking took over.

As a chef in training, she was one of the few women in the male-centric world of professional cooking. She said she does not like being judged because of her sex or skin color. She said that “it’s completely ridiculous” to be considered “a la mode” for being a Black female chef. A la mode is French for “fashionable or modern.”

Instead, she wants to only be judged for the food she serves.

Viou learned to cook from her mother, who had a small restaurant in Benin. She first worked toward becoming a chef in Marseille. She joined Rouge, in Nimes, after it opened in June 2021.

Viou's Michelin star was given for her cuisine that celebrates “her Mediterranean environment and Benin roots."

She was emotional at the awards ceremony. At Rouge, “We’re not a team. We’re a family,” she said.

I’m Dan Novak.

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