The African culinary renaissance has arrived in South Africa, with Burundian chef Coco Reinarhz embracing the modern African food movement. The continent offers a diversity of tastes – all of which can be experienced at Coco's restaurants in Sandton, Johannesburg – Le Petit Sel Bistro and Sel et Poivre.
His innovative fine dining Afro-fusion culinary style, combines classic French cuisine with the most opulent of African flavours. Alongside French culinary gems, Coco has introduced dishes such as Ivorian Assigni crab, palm nut infused chicken, amadumbe and wild mushroom mille feuilles, as well as an exquisite yam and crayfish rice melange inspired by the Senegalese national dish, Thiebou Dienne.
Through his work at Ma Passion and now at Le Petit Sel and Sel et Poivre, he is determined to reveal the unique beauty, fine flavours and unsurpassed richness of African cuisine, celebrating the pleasure that his continent has brought him.
He recently co-authored To the Banqueting House: African Cuisine an Epic Journey with award-winning writer Anna Trapido. This won an international award at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The avant-garde Pan-African cookbook received rave reviews in publications such as Paris Match, Drum, Food and Home Entertaining, Oprah Magazine, Taste and New Visions Africa.
Dr Billy Gallagher, Honorary Life President of the World Association of Chefs Societies said of the book:
"passion and diversity combine elegantly and evocatively and the young fresh authors make African food accessible to modern palates worldwide."
Coco owes his inspiration to his family, whose history is a culinary love story dedicated to the fine flavours of Africa. Cuisine is a family tradition. Every bit of this tradition finds its way in the preparation of Coco's food as well as in each mouthful.
His mother, Marie, was a well-known chef in Central Africa. She trained at the family run Hotel Central in Bujumbura, opened her own restaurant in Bujumbura (Le Cambrinus) and later became the Chef Patronne of Pili Pili -once the most fashionable restaurant in Kinshasa.
Pili Pili played host to numerous celebrities, royalty, diplomats and politicians.
Coco attended the Hotel Management School at Ecole Hotelière de Namur in Belgium, but his heart was in Africa. He returned to Kinshasa to take control of his mother's business interests upon her death.
He later became Head Chef and Duty Manager at Hotel Le Marly in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. In the Ivory Coast he developed a lifelong passion for West African seafood cuisine. Political turmoil in the Ivory Coast caused Coco and his family to flee to Belgium where he became the Head Chef at Château de Sombreffe, outside Brussels. He was awarded the prestigious Trois Fourchette Michelin award.
He has now made South Africa his home and shares his heart to the country through his food.