Like many American children of immigrants, chef Rōze Traore navigates two worlds. You can see it in the way he switches between saying Côte d’Ivoire and Ivory Coast when he discusses his new boutique hotel and restaurant, La Fourchette de Rōze, located in the West African country, and in our conversation about the difficulties of opening his restaurant abroad.
“Just because I’m from Ivory Coast or my parents are … doesn’t mean that it’s not a culture shock for me,” Traore, 32, says. “There were certain ingredients that I thought I would have the luxury of having any day, anytime when I create a menu in the States.” That process proved more difficult in Ivory Coast, but with new ingredients came new opportunities to innovate.
Traore opened La Fourchette de Rōze in January, with the mission of bringing something new to his parents’ native culinary culture. “My approach was never to come in and just take away African food. That’s something that they do perfectly,” Traore says. “But given my background, I wanted to add and introduce them to a different approach, which is how far I could take these ingredients and merge them together.”
Traore, who is also a model, stumbled into his cooking career as a teen who was seeking a form of connection. “Food is always going to be there to heal us. Food is always going to be there to bring us together,” he says. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Ore., and rocketed to early fame working at Eleven Madison Park in New York City and cooking for the 2022 Guggenheim International Gala.
When he decided to open his own restaurant, he knew it would be in Grand Bassam, the beach town outside Abidjan where his grandparents had taken him on vacations when he was a child. The popular tourist destination was impacted by a 2016 terrorist attack, which left the community reeling and led to a decline in visitors, but since then, the arts and culture scene has helped the town flourish. The buzz from La Fourchette de Rōze’s opening is also boosting tourist interest. “I wanted to pick a place that was special and meaningful [so] when I did open, it had a true identity of who I was,” Traore says. “These are my roots. This is where my family came from.”
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