Self-Made: African Self-Taught Chef Awarded Star by Michelin Guide

Self-Made: African Self-Taught Chef Awarded Star by Michelin Guide

Don’t ever let someone tell you your “little talent” won’t take off. Just ask Georgiana Viou.

Viou is a self-taught African chef from Benin who just received a star from the Michelin Guide, according to The Associated Press. Known as the holy grail of cooking, Viou received the star for her cuisine at her restaurant, Rouge, located in Nimes, France. A total of 44 stars were awarded, however, Viou stands out as being awarded as the only woman working single-handed.

The 45-year-old is proud of her Benin heritage, and has already published several books. Viou described her food as a mix of French Mediterranean drizzled with Benin’s feel good texture, crowned for her  “singular cuisine … celebrating her Mediterranean environment and Benin roots.” The chef said she was overwhelmed by this recognition. “Today is really top,” Viou said. “At Rouge, we’re not a team. We’re a family,”

Her cooking journey started by watching her mother, who owned a small restaurant in Cotonou, Benin; but that wasn’t always her dream. The Seattle Times reported Viou came to France in the late 90’s hoping to become an interpreter. She landed a job at a communications agency until her love for cooking took over. She climbed the ladder in the culinary world and started to make a name for herself.

Just last year, Viou was on the jury of the hit TV show MasterChef, years after being a contestant. She thanked her grandmother for giving her the strength to persevere, as the culinary industry can be looked at as an all-boys club. She claimed to not like being categorized due to her skin color to gender, saying that “it’s completely ridiculous.” Viou wants the food to speak for itself.

Viou stands on the shoulders of other women and self-taught chefs who have walked away with a star. Anne-Sophie Pic has won three times and Eric Girardin started his career as an electrical engineer.