When I think of Eric Adjepong’s food, I think of the West African dance called the highlife, full of Afro beats and guitars and brass instruments. The syncopation of the music moves you. Eric and his wife have a catering company in D.C., but most of America knows him from Top Chef. He represents the new African chef who gives a nod to the past, but also to the future. When you eat his food, you can taste that blend and complexity. He brings the African food tradition he grew up with into everything he does, and he does it in the most modern and beautiful way. This rice dish is inspired by Eric and his Ghanaian roots. I eat it and hear the trap beats of “Pour Me Water,” a big Afro beat song. It’s layered and deliciously complicated in your mouth. Jollof rice is such a beloved dish that every West African takes ownership of it. Nigerians and Ghanaians especially squabble on who makes it better and where it was first created. Historians believe it was actually created in Senegal, but that doesn’t stop the competition.
Excerpted from The Rise by Marcus Samuelsson with Osayi Endolyn and recipes with Yewande Komolafe and Tamie Cook. Copyright (c) 2020 by Marcus Samuelsson. Photographs by Angie Mosier. Used with permission of Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. New York, NY. All rights reserved.