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Taking A Bite Out Of Africa

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Hungry in London with a stomach dreaming of home? From the smoky to the sensory, the city offers distinct African culinary encounters.

The unfussy algorithm of a well-known review website has decided there are 105 ‘African’ restaurants in London. Search for ‘European’ restaurants, and you’ll discover 2,654 – now your gut might be telling you something is amiss in the capital’s gigantic foodscape.

‘European food’ seems rather a strange and empty phrase (bouillabaisse and chips, anyone?), but an equivalent suspicion of categorization seems not to apply to dishes from Africa, a continent boasting 54 countries to Europe’s 50. London may indeed be aggressively cosmopolitan, but it might be a while before this ravenous city can really consider itself fully ‘woke’.

Thankfully, word-of-mouth is still a solidly reliable guide to the thousands of eateries in the city, so let this small slice of recommended eats from the African continent – Ghanaian, Senegalese and South African – serve as a modest appetizer, should you find yourself hungry in London with a stomach dreaming of home.

“For me, it should be seamless – the tradition is in the flavor profile of the dish,” says Zoe Adjonyoh, author of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, of the challenge of reinventing Ghanaian flavors for a new audience.

“The reinterpreting is in the creativity of how to rebuild the dish through different cooking methods, or blending its inherent ingredients in new ways.” Try her ‘Suya Cauliflower Florets’, featuring the smoky notes of the Nigerian and Ghanaian suya spice blend, by way of tasty example.

READ MORE: The Foodies With A Drive For Business

Through her increasingly popular pop-ups and residencies, Adjonyoh tries to avoid “preaching or teaching” what Ghanaian food should or shouldn’t be.

“I’m highlighting what’s possible, and giving people the motivation to do more with these amazing flavors and ingredients to maximize their taste and longevity,” she says. The cookbook features “traditional Ghanaian recipes remixed for the modern kitchen”.

“I’m very keen to champion and promote the next generation of female chefs cooking cuisines from across Africa,” she says. “I see it as part of my challenge and responsibility to keep encouraging them to fall in love with their heritage again through food, and tell their own cultural stories – to be the masters and makers of this food revolution.”

A short bus ride through East London brings us to Little Baobab, a monthly food and music pop-up above a vibrant corner grocery in Hackney. It’s a bright late afternoon, and Senegalese chef Khadim Mbamba is making his ‘Lamb Mafe’ – lamb in a tomato and peanut sauce (a traditional base sauce in Senegal), with rice and salad. It is creamy and tangy-sweet; hearty, but fresh on the palate. He makes me a gift of a home-made chilli paste that celebrates the spice’s medicinal punch but marries perfectly with the roasted umami of the nut gravy.

The events are themselves a marriage of music and food; guests share starters, and then choose from ‘Thiebou Dienne’ (fish casserole), ‘Chicken Yassa’ (chicken with onions and olives), ‘Lamb Mafe’, or ‘Vegetarian Thiou’ (tomato-based vegetable stew). Mbamba’s band – he plays bass – rounds out the sensory smorgasbord while the guests tuck in. It’s an experience close to Mbamba’s heart, full of the joy of community so integral to the Senegalese culinary encounter.

“There is a lot of soul in our food,” he says. “The love you have, making the dish – when people eat that dish, they will feel that love.” Little Baobab began life as a restaurant, with live music every night, but Mbamba and his team are now focussed on pop-ups and catering (especially for weddings).

Westward now towards the financial center, and Etienne Pansegrauw’s Hammer & Tongs braai restaurant in Farringdon. Braai dishes seem perfectly suited to British culture: the locals crave an evolved barbecue civilization of their own, but wage constant war with a climate that seems hell-bent on wrecking any carefully-planned Sunday afternoon cook-out. What better, then, than letting a South African do it all for you?

Pansegrauw, from South Africa’s Eastern Cape, has invested in state-of-the-art extractors that allow chef Rodrigo Navarro to prepare a succulent array of locally-sourced fresh meats, vegetables and seafood on fires fed with sickle bush wood imported from Namibia.

This elevates the food to much more than barbecue (indeed, South Africans might argue that braai and barbecue are not the same thing at all; that the braai is closer to something like a cultural state of mind). ‘Mutton Chops in Cape Malay Curry’ are tender and sweetly charred; ‘Prawns with Lime Salt’ are juicy and moreish; and ‘Pork Belly with Apple Cider Compote’ gains most from the sickle bush smoke, the layers of pork fat richly infused with the fragrant nuttiness of the wood. The surprise star of the menu, though, is the ‘Honey Fried Carrots with Chilli’ – the plump, crunchy carrots are cooked in honey before being finished on the grill, giving them a caramelized meatiness equal in textural complexity to anything fish or flesh. These are the big, bold flavors of the camp fire, but prepared with panache and an attention to the subtle combinations of flavor and aroma that are the hallmark of great grill cooking.

“If you go back five years, even, if you had opened up a wood fire place, I don’t think that many people would have gone,” says Pansegrauw. “So the timing has been important. I wanted to see if British people would be receptive to this kind of food; that’s why I opened up in an area near the city, rather than South West London for example, which has a large South African community. For every group of 20 Brits that come, there’s usually one South African that drags them here! But then they all come back.”

Our final destination is two miles west, but a galaxy away. Ikoyi is the first ‘African’ restaurant in London to have earned a coveted Michelin star, but the continental label seems even more incongruous here – the irony is that the Ikoyi concept plays with the African association as readily as it flirts with the aesthetics of costume design, science fiction and pop art. This thrilling challenge to expectations is almost an affront – one isn’t completely sure if the menu, and the intensity of its creators, Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukale, isn’t just some bizarre but delicious practical joke (chef Chan likens his food in the press pack to the paintings of Mark Rothko, a correlation that some will think pretentious – I found it endearingly ballsy and appropriate).

The ‘Plantain, Raspberry & Smoked Scotch Bonnet’ starter is like something from an Eiko Ishioka fantasy costume sketch: there is a magenta slash of plantain, encrusted with a tart-sour raspberry salt, and a saffron-yellow quenelle of citrusy chilli mayonnaise. The plantain is dense and sugary, the raspberry salt reminiscent of a child’s fizzing candy powder, but with a bass note from the emulsion of Scotch Bonnet warmth. It’s odd, exhilarating and a little bit Star Trek – you might be served this if you were an alien ambassador at a private function on the USS Enterprise.

“The dishes have to lure you in,” says Chan. “You have to look at the dish and think – I want to destroy that! So, for example, a pork chop that looks more like a pig than the animal did – a cartoon version of itself. It’s about aesthetics and deliciousness, but unified. This dish is your kill, your prize!”

Ikoyi Jeremy and Iré. Photo by P.A Jorgensen

Childhood friends Chan and Hassan-Odukale were inspired to open the restaurant by a visit to Lagos (Chan is from the north-west of England, Hassan-Odukale is Nigerian-born), but Chan insists that these are “purposely not Nigerian dishes. They have to be completely innovative. That’s the rule”.

The ‘Smoked Jollof Rice’ is a sensuous love song to the crab – the perfect al dente rice has been cooked in a crab broth, and is finished with an unctuous crab cream; the entire crustacean is used in the preparation. It’s sophisticated comfort food, demonstrating Chan’s instinctive understanding that juxtapositions tradition and experimentation at the core of everything good emerging from 21st century multiculturalism.

“The dishes have to be driven by a creative interpretation of the ingredients,” says Chan, in a suitably enigmatic coda to a week of great eating from Africa. “It’s about a primal connection with the guest. Everything is stripped of any preconceptions.”

– By Alastair Haggar

Entrepreneurs

‘Toilet Paper, Gently Used.’ How Facebook Marketplace Has Become An Unlikely Platform For Comedy

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In the two days since he advertised  “unprocessed toilet paper” for sale on Facebook Marketplace next to a photo of logs, David Traichel says the response has been better than expected. No actual buyers, just hundreds of views, laughs, and “you made my day” from other users browsing through the online classifieds.

“So many people are so freaked out about the idea of not having toilet paper,” says Traichel, 39. The aerospace technician and welder from Northford, Connecticut generally uses Facebook Marketplace to sell vintage car and bicycle parts. He decided to offer his oak and cedar woodpile (price, $1) to jog users out of their shopping panic. “Maybe those people would see the ad and think, ‘OK, maybe I’m overreacting.”  

Homebound Americans have turned to scavenging on ecommerce sites like Amazon, eBay and Facebook Marketplace for the boring household goods that have become hot items during the coronavirus pandemic. The shortages have inspired some mercenary sellers to excessive pricing (say, hand sanitizer for $149) and prompted the tech companies to crack down on price gougers. The hoarding frenzy has also been catnip for armchair humorists, who have found an unlikely platform to yuk it up in the free classifieds of Facebook Marketplace. 

You snooze, you lose. KIM MARIE/FACEBOOK

On the social network’s 800 million-user shopping site, one Internet standup is offering “toilet paper, extra long roll” for $69,4202—it’s a CVS receipt wound around the toilet paper dispenser. Another wants to sell you the “last roll of toilet paper in the world,” marked at $10,000. As a last resort, yet another smart aleck is advertising $90 toilet paper alongside a photo of sandpaper. “Don’t go without during this crisis,” it reads.

In reality, there’s no toilet paper crisis. Unlike imports such as iPhones and flat-screen TVs, most U.S. toilet paper comes from domestic factories, buffering supplies from a drop in production in China, where the viral outbreak started. Georgia-Pacific, maker of AngelSoft and Quilted Northern, is boosting its U.S. production. Proctor & Gamble, which makes Charmin brand toilet paper, Bounty paper towels and Puffs facial tissue, says production at its U.S. plants is at record highs. “Demand continues to outpace supply, but we are working diligently to get product to our retailers as fast as humanly possible,” says P&G spokeswoman Loren Fanroy

Which makes it all the more absurd that anxious shoppers stripped supermarket shelves of every last double-ply roll. Relishing the irony, Kim Marie, a 42-year-old naturopathic practitioner from Manorville, New York, decided this week to flog “vintage toilet paper” on Facebook Marketplace. For just $55,990, she’s showcasing a water-damaged and rotting roll mounted on a rustic wall, closing with the Craigslist battlecry of overpriced junker listings, “no low ballers, I know what I got.” Marie, who regularly sells vintage housewares on the site,  says she has received no serious inquiries. Just as well, since the item listed isn’t actually in Marie’s possession— it was a funny photo texted to her by her husband. She threw it up on Marketplace “to lighten the mood.”

See more of Liz Stoppiello’s work on her Facbook page, @Stitchizbyliz.
 
LIZ STOPPIELLO/@STITCHIZBYLIZ

It was the “organic toilet paper,” a $10 baggie of leaves listed on Facebook Marketplace by her brother’s girlfriend, that inspired Liz Stoppiello, 27. The stay-at-home mom usually sells items like car seats and books on Facebook Marketplace. This week she’s offering “washable crochet toilet paper! Been used only a cpl times”  for a cool $100. The advertised off-white crochet squares, wrapped around a cardboard tube, look worthy of an Etsy storefront. It took about 30 minutes to make. She just wanted to “get a good laugh” from people and to promote her crochet-oriented Facebook page. “You never know if anyone will start to desperately need handmade items in the near future lol,” she said via email. 

Her fellow Marketplace posters might be in on the joke, but Facebook’s bots are not. The social network, which uses artificial intelligence to help monitor content and warned Monday that its systems may have removed some COVID-19-related posts in error, had flagged Traichel’s toilet paper ad for unprocessed wood as “under review.”

Facebook “must be so flooded they don’t know what to do,” Traichel emailed, adding an “lol.” He isn’t interested in making a profit, at least not on his firewood. “If people really need toilet paper, I’ll give ‘em a roll.”

Helen A. S. Popkin, Forbes Staff, Innovation


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The Talented Choir That Never Had A Music Lesson

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From humble beginnings to the limelight in  Hollywood, their success is for every ordinary African with big dreams and a bigger mission.

From the dusty rural Moutse village in South Africa’s Limpopo province to the bright lights of Hollywood, the Ndlovu Youth Choir have proven there can be no impediment to global glory if your ambition is great and your passion greater.

When this group of young boys and girls came together, little did they know the world would rise in unison to applaud them. Late last year, their turn as the finalists of America’s Got Talent, a televized American talent show competition in the United States created by Simon Cowell, earned them prowess and praise.

So when an opportunity came to meet them at popular South African restaurant Nando’s in the suburb of Lorentzville in Johannesburg, during a launch event last month, I seized it with conviction and my camera.

The choir’s co-founder and choirmaster Ralf Schmitt started from the beginning, about how he got involved with the group at the opening of the amphitheater in the village of Moutse.

READ MORE | Soweto Gospel Choir: Three Heavy Grammys And A World Singing Their Praise

What started out as a mission to serve the community ended up becoming an even greater force – on the world stage.

“This is the same village that raised the Ndlovu Youth Choir powered by the Ndlovu Care Group. The group was doing amazing work with HIV awareness and treatment in the early 2000s and the amphitheater was built for the community to gather, receive information and do drama workshops around HIV/AIDS.”

Schmitt was contacted to do music for the opening in 2008 because of his track-record in the industry, as he was also part of the internationally-renowned Drakensburg Boys’ Choir.

“I’ve always loved choir and singing. I went on to study music and it worked from day one. I started conducting school choirs and worked with young people. I love composing, I love conducting, I love performing and I love teaching and the medium of a choir allows me to do them all,” he enthuses.

These young people can be the beacons of what’s possible in a rural community.

Ralf Schmitt

He had originally suggested they start a brass band but because of their location in Limpopo, far from big city Johannesburg, it would have been difficult for the teachers and trainers to regularly access and develop them.

The choir became the obvious choice as part of the orphans and vulnerable children’s program at the Ndlovu Care Group.

The horrific HIV pandemic had left many orphaned and the program was meant as a healing curriculum for the community. It became so successful that when it came for the participants to leave school, they were not willing to leave the program as they were unable to find employment or afford secondary education.

Schmitt says thus an idea of transforming the choir into a platform to generate an income for unemployed youth was born.

READ MORE | The Choirboy Inspired By Criminals

Today, the choir boasts about 40 members and includes a job creation program for the older singers who do most of the performances.

The choir has also started a home schooling program for learners – a full-time tutor travels with them locally and internationally.

“When we turned professional in 2018, it took about six months to get us going. I called a few people I knew in the industry and bookings were coming in slow,” recalls Schmitt.

“We needed a product and the arrangement we did of a Zulu version of Shape Of You by Ed Sheeran, brilliantly translated by Sandile Majola and Sipho Hleza, went massively viral on social media and had 25 million views and that got the nation’s attention and that was the first time we got serious publicity and bookings started flooding in.” 

Soon after, the choir performed live for a South African radio station and that’s where America’s Got Talent heard the Zulu arrangement and made contact and asked for videos.

He remembers he couldn’t get the videos out to the producers because of service delivery protests in the area. The choir conductor was blocked by an angry mob with burning tyres and rocks, but that didn’t stop the choir from performing at the Derby Theatre miles away from home.

“I am so pleased that these young people can be the beacons of what’s possible in a rural community, every single one of them are from that community and not anyone went and studied music at tertiary level, all that is produced is raw talent and they never had a music lesson in their life. As the artistic director, I try very hard at preserving that talent because that’s the magic,” he says.

The first time they got on stage, he recalls thinking that the audience didn’t know them; they probably just saw the group as kids from a rural community in South Africa.

However, the warmth they received was unforgettable. Whereas, in comparison, the experience at America’s Got Talent was intense and draining, but exhilarating, he recalls.

“It was nerve-racking when the music went down and the lights dimmed and Gabrielle Union [American actress] screamed ‘you are going through!’ and everyone just lost their minds. It was special we were through to the live finale.”

Thulisile Masanabo is one of the senior members in the choir who also assists with wardrobe. She has been with the choir since 2013 when she was 16 and very shy.

READ MORE | ‘Don’t Be Afraid To Bend The Rules’ – Miss Universe

“I used to stand at the back of the row at the beginning. As the years went, I began to gain confidence and moved to the third row, then second, now, I’m in the first row,” says Masanabo. 

She opened the song Africa by Toto wearing bright yellow garments to a noisy and ecstatic American crowd.

Looking back, she chuckles saying she had auditioned singing the South African national anthem.

“I was on my way back from school and Sandile called me in. He was standing outside and just calling people in to audition. He didn’t want to know if you can or cannot sing,” Masanabo says of her recruitment into the group.

All members of the choir are under the age of 30; among them, is 25-year-old Majola who helped arrange the Zulu version of Shape Of You.

He joined when he was a 14-year-old school boy accompanying his sister to the auditions.

“I was invited inside to try my luck on August 23, 2009,” he recalls vividly.

“I first traveled internationally with the choir in 2011 to Holland and the performance was average, it was not as nice as we perform today.”

He says the choir upped his self-esteem and he now can communicate better with people and perform more effectively on stage.

One of the songs instilled in him was written by Schmitt titled Believe dedicated to the choir.

 “The message was for us, but now, it’s for other young people as well. They should never stop dreaming,” says Majola.

This young group of music-lovers is testament that believing and dreaming big can indeed make you cross borders.

Their journey was from a tiny village, to grabbing the limelight in one of the globe’s biggest talent search shows. The world is now truly their stage.

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Harry And Meghan Need $3 Million-Plus To Be ‘Financially Independent.’ Here’s How They May Do It.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would like to “become financially independent,” they announced Wednesday—and that may have to happen sooner rather than later, as Prince Charles, Harry’s father, is reportedly threatening to pull the millions he gives them each year. How they plan to replace those funds remains a subject of feverish palace intrigue about which the couple remains mum.

But what is clear: By stepping away from their duties, they likely are no longer prohibited from earning income the way senior members of the royal family are, clearing the way for them to take real jobs. What will those be? And how much will they actually need to make in order to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed?

Annual Costs: Roughly $3 Million A Year (Not Including Renovations)

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount that Prince Harry and Markle earn from the various royal mechanisms each year—and a spokesperson for the Sussexes did not respond to questions about on the couple’s finances—but 95% of their annual income comes from Prince Charles, Harry’s father, via the Duchy of Cornwall. A trust that consists of 131,000 acres of real estate and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the United Kingdom, the Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1337 to support the direct heir to the throne.

That estate paid a combined $6.5 million (or £5.1 million) to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) and to Prince Harry and Markle in the fiscal year ending March 2019, according to the latest financial report. The funding for the princes and their families didn’t change much from 2018 to 2019, although both reports were prior to the birth of the Sussex couple’s son, Archie. Let’s assume the brothers split that income from the Duchy (though William and Kate, with three children, are likely taking a bit more). While the Duke and Duchess did not immediately surrender this income, reports surfaced Friday that Charles is threatening to cut them off completely.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did announce that they will “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant,” which we know covers an additional 5% of their income, and used for their official duties. It covers official business such as international tours, travel to official events and the upkeep of their homes and offices, and comes from about 25% of the revenue from the Crown Estate (£85.9 million or $112.2 million for the 2020–2021 fiscal year), a portfolio of investments controlled by the monarchy—though not by the royal family or the government—and includes properties across the United Kingdom. (For example, the Queen herself does not own Buckingham Palace.) 

In 2018 and 2019, the couple used money from the Sovereign Grant to travel across the world, from Fiji to South Africa, on official royal business. While the royal annual reports don’t detail how much the Sussex’s travels cost in total, their trip to Fiji and Tonga cost $105,000 (£81,000), according to the latest Sovereign Grant financial report. (While it may seem that travel costs could go down as the couple steps back from royal duties, they say they plan to split time between the British Isles and North America, which will lead to new expenses.) 

Based on what we know, we estimate the total of the couple’s funds from the Duchy and Sovereign Grants to be a (very conservative) $3 million—again, not including security costs. 

And that’s not including the cost of their home and renovations: The Sovereign Grant covered last year’s $3.12 million (£2.4 million) refurbishment of the Frogmore Cottage, the four-bedroom plus nursery home in Windsor where the couple lives when they are in England. The home’s maintenance began before the couple decided to move in and was covered by the Queen, under existing commitments to maintain the upkeep of certain historical buildings, while the couple privately paid for the furniture and decor. Even though the house is property of the Queen, the couple plans to continue using it as their official residence when they are in the United Kingdom—meaning less rent to pay. 

None of this takes into account the cost of their security, which is reportedly covered by the Metropolitan Police, and which the family is expected to continue to accept.  

With all of these expenses and their easy access to funds facing a precarious future, the questions remains of how, exactly, the couple plan to earn the millions that their lifestyle demands. 

What Could Make A Royal Gig: Books, Speeches, SponCon?

They do have some money to live off of: Thanks to her seven-year stint on the television drama Suits, Forbes estimates that Markle has a net worth of about $2.2 million. Prince Harry has money of his own as well, as he and his brother received the bulk of Princess Diana’s $31.5 million estate upon her death in 1997.  

But it is likely that they will join other royals, like Harry’s cousins Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and actually take paying gigs (the former works in finance, while the latter works at an art gallery). While no announcements have been made as to how exactly the couple plans to make money, it would seem natural that they take up work in the entertainment and media fields. 

Markle has said that she was giving up acting for good once she joined the royal family; maybe this is an opportunity for her to change her mind. At the height of her acting career, she commanded up to $85,000 per episode of SuitsForbes estimates, a number that would likely shoot up thanks to her royal title if she decided to return to the screen.

But it is more likely that the pair will take up shop on the speaking and book circuit. High-profile speakers like former president and first lady Bill and Hillary Clinton can earn up to six figures per speech to corporations and universities, while even B-list celebrities like Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi could command $32,000 per oration during the height of her fame. 

A hit book has the potential to earn the couple even more. A seven-figure advance is typical for celebrities like Amy Schumer and politicians like Elizabeth Warren, with some high-profile authors earning even more. In 2017, former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama signed a record-breaking $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, while Hillary Clinton scored a $14 million advance for Hard Choices in 2014, and Bruce Springsteen got $10 million for 2016’s Born to Run. 

There’s also talk that the couple, which favors new media and direct lines of communication with their fans, may even start a podcast, which could be a lucrative endeavor. Last year, advertising spend on podcasts reached an estimated $680 million, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, and that number is supposed to shoot up to $1 billion by next year.

And in the unlikely chance they’re ever interested in following the footsteps of the royal family of Calabasas, the Duke and Duchess could surely earn an enormous sum doing sponsored content on their widely popular (10.4 million followers) Instagram account. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and her half-sister Kylie Jenner earn up to $500,000 per post.

Of course, the details of the couple’s future, and their future earnings, are all in flux, as Buckingham Palace’s curt statement on the matter made clear. And the wording of their own statement made sure that they can work toward financial independence on their own time. One thing is for certain: It doesn’t seem as if the Duke and Duchess will be hurting for cash anytime soon.

By  Madeline Berg, Reporter, Forbes Staff and Deniz Çam , Wealth Reporter, Forbes Staff.

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