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Giordana Kebedom was born in Ethiopia on January 3rd, 1966. She moved to Italy and then to the US to study marketing in college. She came back to Ethiopia in 1993 to start her own business. She currently has a cooking show on EBS TV and owns Giordana’s Kitchen, a restaurant in Addis Ababa.
Capital’s Aderajew Asfaw sat with Giordana to discuss about her life, the restaurant industry in the city and the art of cooking.
Capital: You have a TV program and you own a restaurant. Which one do you prefer more?
Giordana Kebedom: I would like to be recognized as a TV personality most of all. I like working on television that is why I created Giordana’s kitchen which is a popular program on EBS TV. As a matter of fact, I am going to start the new season of my show on May 1st.
Capital: What kind of show is it? Is it the same one or are you doing something different?
Giordana: It’s the same and the show is called Giordana’s Kitchen but with new propensity. People are really crazy for new shows. We just finished shooting one full season. I can’t wait until it’s launched, I’m very excited. Capital: Can you tell me your areas of interest in cooking?
Giordana: I love to come up with new kinds of dishes. I love using great ingredients that we have here in Ethiopia. We have a lot of ingredients here that we don’t use. We have different varieties of vegetables that we don’t use. So I use these ingredients and vegetables in my restaurant located around the Hayahulet area. The restaurant is becoming very popular and I believe we have the best food in town.
Capital: How did your passion for cooking starts?
Giordana: I grew up with a mother who is an excellent cook and a family that loves food. I lived in Italy and living in Italy for a long time also contributed to developing the passion. Italians love to cook and eat. I did get some of that culture and when I was in the U.S I worked in several Italian restaurants in New York City. But basically the fact that I lived in Italy explains it all. You can’t find an Italian who doesn’t know how to cook. I am not saying I am Italian; I am a proud Ethiopian. I am just saying that where I grew up, food was there 24/7. When we come to the Ethiopian context, with so many different ingredients, we can make our own pasta; we can make our own pastry. In America, we used to buy frozen food and everything sold in the supermarket is processed and you never really think about cooking fresh food. But here, you have to make everything from scratch and that is actually a very positive thing, it means what we eat is fresh. That makes us very lucky.
Capital: Have you attended any culinary school?
Giordana: I have never went to a culinary school. All my skill came from trainings in restaurants and working with chefs. I still don’t want to go to culinary school.
Capital: Why is that?
Giordana: I have created a path; I have created my own cooking style, whatever it is that I have, I am happy with it.
Capital: what are your favorite spices for cooking?
Giordana: My favorite dry spice is black pepper. I love black pepper and I love cardamom, cinnamon and basically most of the spices that we have here. From fresh herbs I love rosemary; basil, coriander and others.
Capital: How is the restaurant business in Ethiopia generally?
Giordana: It is progressing. I think people right now want to know more about food. People are demanding more and more. So, restaurants are improving every day. You see good restaurants coming up every now and then. I might not mention names but there are some good restaurants these days.
Capital: Do you eat in other restaurants or do you stick to your own?
Giordana: I usually go to my own restaurant. I love my food. I cook for myself. I love what I make. But sometimes I go out. I like Chinese and Indian cuisines but most restaurants in Addis Ababa that specialize in those cuisines are not that good. Chinese restaurants could do a lot better in hygiene. The lack of hygiene you see is very disappointing. I also love going out for Ethiopian food. There’s this very small restaurant called Grand, it is one of my favorite places to eat.
Capital: What kind of food do you cook at your restaurant?
Giordana: We make everything but our popular dish is ravioli. Our fresh pastas are also very popular. Our chicken with mushroom cream is another dish people often order. Our salads to me are the best in town. If you want salad, come to Giordana’s Kitchen.
Capital: Tell me about the TV show?
Giordana: The TV show is doing very well. I am very pleased with my partner-EBS TV and Mangoo. I am very happy about working with both companies. A new season of my show will be aired on May 1st at 7:30, I am very excited.
Capital: What kind of feedback do you get from your viewers?
Giordana: Mostly, it is a ‘we love you’. Cooking is more related to love. As I said before, it is about family. Food is what brings a family together. I always go home looking forward to cooking for my family. . Nowadays it is not only women cooking but also men are, so I have all kinds of fans; children, young people, women and men. I think my show is encouraging people to get into the kitchen and cook.
Capital: What’s your future plan?
Giordana: My future plan is to expand my restaurant. I would also like to teach cooking. I don’t really know how I am going to teach, it is just an idea. I also have a list of things that I want to do which includes teaching, training and help in developing restaurants in the town, as well as training chefs. That is the sort of thing I would like to start doing in the future.
Capital: You did not attend culinary school and you don’t plan to do so in the future either. Do you think people need to actually go to school to become good chef?
Giordana: I have known many self-trained chefs. I am not the only one. There are many of us. You see, what helped me is the fact that I was a marketing student which enabled me to realize how to market myself. But the cooking thing I think is a natural gift. I learn new things very quickly. I know how to combine what with what. I know presentation. I would go back to school to get a diploma if that is necessary but not for knowledge. I am still learning but I choose to teach myself. I want to teach myself by reading, by trying new things and coming up with recipes and things like that.
Capital: Why do you prefer to taste the food you are cooking at every stage of the cooking process?
Giordana: Cooking is a process, you are putting together different things that will in the end become one whole dish. You cannot know what is needed and what to add without tasting it first. You need to taste it until you feel that it is perfect, perfect enough to be put on the table. If you taste the food after you are done cooking and you realize that there is a problem with the way it tastes, there isn’t much you can do about it. It would already be too late. That is why tasting is very important while you cook.
Capital: What are your foods famous for?
Giordana: Parsley. I use it as a garnish. It makes the plate look good. We look, we smell, we then taste. If it doesn’t look good, I am not going to smell it. If I don’t smell it, I am not going to eat it.
Capital: What’s your philosophy in life?
Giordana: I always say anyone who doesn’t like food loves life very little. For me, food is the ultimate thing. I am not into somebody who doesn’t like food, who doesn’t appreciate food, who doesn’t understand the art of food. Cooking is art to me, it is my passion. So one who says I don’t like food, doesn’t love life.