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Farms, Forks and Food Revolution

March 28, 2021

In our most highly anticipated episode to date, 54Lights sat down with executive Chef Kiki Bokungu Louya about her career in food. The renowned chef opened up to us about her life, journey and motivations. The conversation touched on various topics including her perspective on food sustainability – and our responsibility to protect and preserve the communities around us. In her eyes, conversations on food sustainability need to be reframed to include consideration of the entire food system – wage parity, employment opportunities, local ingredients, accessible pricing and carbon footprint. Her fresh outlook exposed her thoughtful and thorough approach to food.

Her resume is peppered, littered actually, with accolades and accomplishments of an enviable nature. Least of which is her work building and growing businesses. Beyond the restaurants and kitchens she leads, Chef Kiki is an entrepreneur who believes in strengthening her community and home town of Detroit. That dedication is manifest in her pursuits in the hospitality industry and in the hospitable and nurturing way that she leads her staff. But beyond her staff and work, Chef Kiki’s appreciation of food is surprising yet expansive. She shared her understanding of how food shapes culture through the traditions it evokes. From how it’s eaten and prepared, food and culture are intertwined in ways that uplift, downgrade and ultimately help shape how we interact with each other. For her, “food is just food” but the traditions around it are what stand to create experiences.

During the pandemic, Chef Kiki joined 14 other contestants to participate in Bravo’s hit reality show, Top Chef. She shared how challenging (and vulnerable) it was to return to cooking on a line – vs running a business. While the passion was there, the awareness of COVID helped kept her and her fellow contestants come together in kind, heartwarming and exciting way. Chef Kiki has remained friends with her fellow chefs and was “blown away” by the experience.   

About Chef Kiki Bokungu Louya Kiki Louya is a Detroit-born Chef who’s recently made the NY Times Top 16 Black Chefs list, founded Nest Egg – Americas first all women owned hospitality group, and whose exploits as a food activist have been featured in Bon Appetit, The Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine and Martha Stewart Living to name a few. Her influence may originate in her hometown of Detroit but expands well beyond it. She’s acted as a consultant to help shape city-wide food policies, establish farmer’s markets and has contributed to Yale University’s Afro-American Cultural Center & Sustainable Food Program. Oh and did I mention that Chef Kiki is starring on the 2021 season of Top Chef….yes that’s right, we caught up to Chef Kiki literally days before her debut on the Bravo series. The show, in its 18th season, is an addictive battle that pits 15 Cheftestants from across the US in a battle for the title of Top Chef.  Remember that Top Chef’s contestants, of which we’re rooting for Chef Kiki, were chosen because they are respected executives but also because of the their unique skills and diverse culinary perspective. If there’s anyone shaping culture through food…it’s Chef Kiki.

About 54Lights podcast 54Lights is a podcast dedicated to elevating black voices through authentically told stories. We showcase Africans, African descendants and allies of the great continental  community. Our goal is to rewrite the narrative and reclaim the brand that represents people of colour. Each episode is designed to introduce you to culture creators…mostly with ties to the great continent…so that we can showcase the diversity and prowess of our people.
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