Interview with Victoire Bongo, Award winning chef and founder Bongo Hospitality

Can you share a little about our journey to become a chef. How did your passion for this career develop?

My passion started by watching my mother in the kitchen cooking for us. When cooking, she was the happiest woman in the world. That made me happy and made me want to cook. She has been my inspiration throughout my career. 

After leaving the Congo, Africa, we settled in Canada. That's when I saw the opportunity to study cooking. It was my high school teacher who saw something in me, believed in me and helped pay for me to go to cooking college. After college I wanted to be the best so I went knocking on some of the best restaurants in Vancouver asking for a job as a dishwasher. I was willing to work my way up. It wasn’t easy but with hard work and never giving up I slowly started climbing the ladder step by step until now where I have become an international reorganized award-winning chef.


How did you learn the skills needed? Did you study in school, apprentice? Or ?

I learned my skills through constant practice and by taking chances - being bold, asking questions while also being patient during service hours. Yes, some red-seal training taught me the fundamentals, but the real world experience came from being out there, globally. Travelling. Exposing myself to different cuisines. I pride myself on having more stamps in my passport at under 40 years of age, than most people accumulate in their entire life.

What do you find exciting about this career - what you love most and what comes easiest for you? What is hardest about this career, challenges one thinking of being a chef needs to know?

I am passionate about what I do, so the cooking comes easy. The creating comes easy. The perfecting of the recipes is what takes nuance, time, attention to detail and a true love of the foods and the ingredients you’re using. The best feeling is seeing the look and the smiles of people as they eat my food. Sometimes the room gets really quiet because they are enjoying the food so much. That’s music to my heart. Being a chef is hard work and long hours, but for me its rewarding and has become my lifestyle.

Can you share some of the wonderful highlights you have enjoyed along the way? Events you were a part of? Awards? We'd love a funny behind the scenes story if you have one?

My whole life feels like a novel and I'm barely half way through. Growing up poor, establishing my English, learning basic skills, growing up young and basically trying over and over and over until I understand or conquer whatever I'm trying to achieve. I am privileged to have traveled the world and be hosted as a celebrity chef. I have collaborated with some of the best chefs in the world. I have competed against some of the best chefs around the country and brought home gold medals. October 2023, I will be receiving the International Master Chef award in Malaysia, which I am very excited and looking forward to.

Where do you find inspiration when creating a new dish?

Mother nature, the world, my travels, the people, the visualizations in my head and my ability to picture how certain foods blend based on acidity and pH levels (again, in my head) while pairing them with other ingredients. It's almost an alchemical experience for the R&D (research and development), then science for real hands-on practice.

You are in the process of launching your next venture - limited distribution of ready to eat packages of your world famous Peanut Soup (Vancouver, New Westminster, Surry, Victoria, Penticton). Why was now the right time and how can readers place their order?

It's becoming a convoluted industry for pre-packaged items. I wanted to get in while I can, while the industry is still seeing massive growth. I want to present REAL and AUTHENTIC products that are good for the soul, made by a passionate human (and team), and ultimately, to help me help Africa (the motherland) through my foundation. I hope to create a more hospitable world, rather than the divisive one we're currently living in. Also, I need to make Great Grandma Bongo proud and bring true flavor to the world, not over-scienced, synthetic and over-processed products that do more harm than good. Our focus is delicious, healthy food made with love and passion. How can any reasonable person not want that?

Anything else you'd like to let readers know about? 

Yes. I just launch my new website where you will find my cookbooks (print and eBooks), my wines for sale, as well as featured recipes. There is also information on the services I offer including the Bongo Experience where I and my team cater to any special occasions anywhere in the world. There are also cooking classes for both adults and kids. I'm also available through the winter for private dinners in the comfort of the people houses, paid for by donation towards my foundation to build the school You can read more about my foundation and my project of building a cooking school to teach my orphanage kids in Congo, Africa, on my website. 


In closing, can you share your thoughts on the importance of good food and people coming together to share a meal? How does this enrich our lives?

Food is love. Food brings people together. I come from a war-torn country where people have nothing to look forward to but getting together to enjoy food, country where they share whatever little food they have even knowing the next day they may not have any. Many people in the world starve every day without food. It's what we need to save the world, and my saying is that I will save the world one meal at a time.