Racism and the financial meltdown kept Congolese master chef Christian Yumbi down and out in Belgium. Back at home, the gourmet innovator has finally won the stardom he fought for.
“I did my best (in Belgium): I studied, opened my own business, married a Belgian woman, and spoke Flemish. But despite all that, I always felt like a foreigner there,” said Yumbi, who in 2014 won the pan-African television contest “Star Chef”.Because he drove a flashy car, Yumbi said he was frequently stopped by the Belgian police, “who would ask me whether I was a football player or a drug dealer”.
Despite his masters degree from the prestigious Ritz Escoffier cooking school in Paris – which he financed by washing dishes – none of his Belgian employers ever appointed him a top chef. “I was good, but it was practically impossible to become chef because I am black and African… Unsettled, frustrated and tired, I struggled to survive,” said Yumbi, 40.
Refusing to give up, the food lover took out a $20 000 loan in 2014 to open his first restaurant in Belgium, which he named “Re-Source”.
Yumbi was inspired by the so-called slow food movement that aims to preserve traditional cuisine and steer clear from fast food.
“It was like going back to the source, that’s where the name ‘Re-Source’ came from,” he beamed. Two years later, “Re-Source” earned a mention in the influential French restaurant guide Gault & Millau, but the 2008 financial crisis hit