For Kitchens of Africa founder Jainaba Jeng, learning to cook was a rite of passage handed down from one generation of women to the next—whether they were ready or not.
“When I was 14, my sister had invited some guests over for dinner, but then she got stuck at work and asked if I could go to her house and cook this meal,” she says. “I was so terrified because I had never cooked an entire meal by myself... In the end, she phoned me and was like: ‘I don't know what you did, but everybody was licking their fingers.’ I thought that maybe I could do this, maybe it was something I’m good at.”
In 2012, Jeng launched Kitchens of Africa, a diverse line of simmer sauces—like spicy, tangy Yassa sauce (the foundation of the dish she cooked for her sister’s guests that evening)—to honor African women, the keepers of the continent’s culinary traditions.
“They always rise up no matter what. That is something I wanted to celebrate—the diversity and the depth and the strength of women in Africa.”