Meet Georgiana Viou, 42, a self-taught West African chef who won a star from the Michelin Guide on Monday for her immaculate culinary skills at “Rogue (Red),” a restaurant in Nîmes, a city in the Southern region of France.
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“I have told myself: ‘If by any chance I am awarded a star, I would do a dance,’ but I’m not going to,” Viou said at the award ceremony. She ended up doing a little dance after being encouraged by the crowd.
When asked how she felt about her name being called for the award, she responded, “At some point I hear, ‘Georgiana, Goergiana.’ At this moment, I told myself, ‘Wow, it can’t be true!’ This emotion, it only happens once.”
Before migrating to France, Viou lived in the west African county of Benin, where she learned to cook from her mother, who owned a small restaurant, AP News reported.
In 1999, she moved to France to become an interpreter by studying languages. However, life didn’t go the way she planned. Thankfully, her cooking skills were on the back burner, and she used the perseverance her grandmother taught her to continue her life, working as a chef in the southern port city of Marseille.
With patience and hard work, Viou started getting recognized for her culinary talents, and she started working for Rogue restaurant.
Last year, Viou became a judge on the hit cooking show MasterChef.
Viou now has a Michelin star, recognizing her talents for fusing her Beninese roots with Mediterranean influences in her dishes. One dish she resonates with is the red mullet or Rouget. It’s stuffed with black pork sausage from Bigorre and Afiti, with seeds used as a seasoning. Viou said that her restaurant’s recipe is different because it uses candied fennel in the dish and celery emulsion and serves it with roasted plantains.
As for whom she’d dedicate her star Viou said that she wouldn’t dedicate it to her restaurant team since they did it together. She said she’d dedicate it to her three children, her mother, her family “in general,” and her close friends.
“To all the chefs who have truly advised me throughout the last twelve years,” she said.
The Michelin Guide is a guidebook that points travelers to fine-dining restaurants and has been since 1900.