Beginning of YOLÉLÉ
Founded by Senegalese Chef Pierre Tham in 2017 he created YOLÉLÉ to help mostly women smallholder farmers in West Africa by using a native grain called fonio to help ease the economic poverty in the area. Fonio has become popular because it grows quickly while being drought resistant and cooks fast. While it has many health benefits its versatility as a crop and product has made it quite popular in the United States within the last few years.
What is Fonio?
It is an ancient grain that has grown in West Africa for thousands of years. It is quick-cooking, easy to digest, low on the glycemic index, high in fiber, and gluten-free! It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant crop with an extensive root system that helps fight soil erosion. Thiam uses fonio to create food security, and economic stability and want to turn countries like Senegal into exporters which creates employment in impoverished areas that rely on rural farming as an industry.
Chef Pierre Tham
Chef Thiam began sharing his love of fonio by cooking for his staff at an Italian restaurant in New York in the late 1980s. He had been studying at the University of Dakar and came to the United States on a student visa to continue his study of physics and chemistry just before the student strikes and government shutdown. Inspired by his mother’s cooking he created more dishes and studied Senegalese cuisine on trips back to visit his family. Eventually, his recipes made it onto the daily specials menu at the restaurant and continued to thrive from there.
YOLÉLÉ’s primary purpose is to invest in rural West African communities and lessen poverty by changing conditions for smallholder farmers by removing the limitations of their capacity to farm more productively and abundantly.
Fun Fact: Yolélé is a Fulani term of exuberance used throughout West and Central Africa. It roughly translates to “Let the Good Times Roll”!