West African Treats
Having been bumped and bruised throughout his seven-year career as an NFL running back for teams including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots, Amos Zereoué says the rough game of football hardly compares to the demands of running his West African and French-inspired restaurant in New York City. “It is by far the most challenging thing I’ve done,” he says of Zereoué, an intimate space that pipes in African rhythms and displays the cultural works of Ugandan painter John Mubiru. “It’s a 24/7 job.” But since Zereoué’s retirement from pro football in 2005, sharing his love of food and his culture brings great satisfaction.
Originally from the Ivory Coast, Zereoué, 33, migrated to the United States at age 10 with his family. Both of his parents enjoyed cooking the traditional warm, spicy, stew-based dishes of his country—many of which he is introducing to his patrons, like kedjenou, a richly flavored tomato-based chicken dish; and escargot sautéed in African rum and spices. They are among the variety of seafood and poultry offerings on his lunch and dinner menus. Many specialties are served with vegetables, rice, or attiéké, a grain similar to couscous that’s served in a small mound and traditionally pounded with a spoon so it more easily absorbs sauces from the main dish. Guests also enjoy Kenyan beer, South African wines, and Starr African Rum from the island of Mauritius.
Zereoué first opened as a French restaurant, but the owner quickly realized that there was a greater opportunity: “The goal is to expose our guests to broader experiences in African culture.” For more information, visit www.zereoue.com.