photo credit: Evan Sung

Take a break from winter!

Tastes of West Africa: A Culinary Institute for Adventurous Cooks Register Here

Tastes of West Africa 2019

February  2019, Dates TBA
Register Here



Love food and cooking? Passionate about Africa? This is for you! Plan now to  leave the winter cold behind and join the West African Research Association and famous Senegalese chef, Pierre Thiam, on an unforgettable culinary sojourn in Senegal, West Africa. Trade in the cold winter weather for sunshine and the warmth of Senegalese teranga. We’ll spend a sun-filled week exploring markets; meeting the people who grow, harvest and prepare foods; and learning to cook some fabulous African dishes.


You won’t want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Chef Pierre Thiam! Featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article, and on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode in Senegal, Chef Thiam is an accomplished chef and is known the world over as a formidable ambassador for West African cuisine.  He is the author of two cookbooks, Yolele!, Recipes from the Heart of Senegal, and Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl. Chef Thiam has a deep interest in how foods are produced, who produces them, and the cultural meanings of the foods we eat.

Pierre Thiam is a chef with his fingers in many pies: To name just a few, in 2015, after having run two restaurants in New York, he opened the award winning restaurant Nok by Alara in Lagos, Nigeria. He is the co-founder of Yolele! , a purpose-driven food company, specializing in the ancient grain, fonio. (You can learn more about this highly nutritious West African grain in Chef Thiam’s 2017 TED talk.) Chef Thiam has served as a judge in a Joloff rice cook-off  at the African food Festival in Brooklyn, and joined Chef Massimo Boturra and other world-renowned chefs in Brazil to turn left over food from the 2016 summer Olympics into gourmet meals for the poorest of Rio’s residents. Learn more about his many activities by visiting his website and Facebook page.



Senegal’s most famous dish,Thieboudienne

Tastes of West Africa will not only be an opportunity to learn to prepare signature West African dishes under the tutelage of an internationally acclaimed chef, it will be a great way to increase your knowledge of this important world region. Leave your cares behind and come join us for a week of discovery, relaxation, and sunshine.


Each of the dishes we will be preparing is representative of a different West African culinary tradition. This is an exciting way to learn about the rich cultures of West Africa. You’ll come home with a whole new repertoire of succulent dishes with which to delight and amaze your friends and family.


This culinary sojourn will leave you with a broad understanding of the cultures and history of West Africa, its religions, economies, and esthetics—and an appreciation of the biodiversity that creates the striking abundance of fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, grains and meats from which we will draw our ingredients.


Each dish will be an adventure, as we explore recipes and ingredients, how they are produced and marketed, and culinary technique. For our ingredients, we will visit various specialized food markets in Dakar and environs, and we will learn about the customs and practices surrounding food and eating. This is a hands-on institute; experts will guide us in preparing each of the dishes, and we will enjoy the celebration of eating together the wonders we create.




Trip Highlights

  • Food

    Learn to prepare a range of West African dishes from recipe, to market, to prep, to table.

  • Opportunity

    Work side-by-side with world-renowned chef, Pierre Thiam

  • Travel

    Travel to Goree Island, Lac Rose, Keur Moussa, and other historic spots in our own Car Rapide!

  • Accomodations

    We will be staying at the Hôtel Le Djoloff.

  • Lectures

    Exploring the culture and history of West Africa by internationally known scholars.

Program Highlights

Highlights of the Program

We will arrive in Dakar early morning. We’ll be met at the airport and driven to our hotel. After settling in and resting up or checking out the neighborhood, we’ll enjoy lunch on the hotel’s rooftop terrace. In the afternoon, we’ll have an orientation, and in the evening, we’ll have dinner together at a popular Cameroonian restaurant before returning to the hotel.

After breakfast at the hotel, depart for a guided tour of the city of Dakar. We’ll visit several points of interest, including food markets and the IFAN Museum, where we will attend a lecture by a Senegalese historian. After lunch at the West African Research Center (WARC), we will begin preparations for our first dish, learning about its ingredients and their origins, and how they are produced. For each dish that we prepare, we will study recipes and prepare our shopping lists in the afternoon, and then, first thing the next morning, groups will head out to various markets to do the shopping.  After breakfast, we’ll do our marketing and then we will attend a lecture on an aspect of West African culture and history. Lunch & siesta. Preparation of of our first dish!

Our time together will follow this model of learning about various West African dishes, studying recipes and contextual background (through films, outings, and lectures), doing marketing, preparing the dishes, and enjoying them together! We will visit local producers, fishermen, and artisans over the course of our ten days.

Day trips will include an outing to Lac Rose. This salt lake, surrounded by sand dunes, owes its name, ‘the pink lake’ to the harmless Dunaliella salina bacteria in the waters that lend a pink color to the lake, particularly during the dry season.  Far saltier than the ocean, it is the site of artisanal saltworks. We will also visit Keur Moussa, the Benedictine monastery where the monks are known for their orchards and fruit preserves, for their goat cheese, and for their music. We will make a day trip to  Goree Island to visit the House of Slaves memorial and museum with its Door of No Return. We will also spend two nights in the delta region, where we will stay at an eco-lodge on a tidal estuary, home to pelicans and other sea birds as well as lush mangove forests–and great for a morning swim. From there, we will visit Senegal’s largest fishing port, visit fishermen there and learn about the fishing industry in Senegal.

These are just some of the highlights of this culinary sojourn. Tastes offers you an hands-on learning experience that is both exciting and relaxing, an opportunity to explore West Africa, its people and its foods and to return home with new culinary skills with which to impress your friends and family!

Note: Because this program involves preparing dishes that may have peanuts, dairy, meats and wheat products, it is not advised for those with food allergies. Participants must be able to maintain a moderate walking pace and be comfortable walking over uneven surfaces, getting in and out of boats, and going up and down steps.