He dreamed of maybe strutting along a hospital hall way, a stethoscope in hand and nurses in tow. But as he tells Africanews, life took a different turn.
A 360 degree turn from his boyhood medical dreams. With his dream rerouted, a newfound love surfaced. A passion for food, cooking food.
Today, food or the art of preparing it has become more than just a source of employment for 26-year-old Elijah Amoo Addo. It is at the heart of his life. He cooks for a living and runs a farm from which he gets his ingredients.
But more importantly, he gathers leftover foods to pass on to the less privileged in his native Ghana. Whiles pushing for a policy back home to regulate food disposal and related matters, chef Elijah is looking beyond Ghana – Africa is the bigger picture.
He granted Africanews an exclusive interview discussing issues from his recent award given him by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace, how he set out to run a food bank, life’s journeys, his dreams among others.
How was growing up like and your academic journey into ‘chef-dom?’
Growing up as the only boy among three siblings, my childhood dream was to become a medical doctor and so I studied General Science at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary school – one of the best boys schools in Ghana.
However, due to the death of my parents, I had to hold onto my passion for cooking and take a course in culinary studies at Sphinx Hospitality school and catering services in Lagos, Nigeria. I have a certificate in entrepreneurship and management from YALI West Africa RLC-GIMPA.
When did you set up your organization and what has been your career focus and motivation?
I had been a chef within the hospitality chain in Ghana and Nigeria with 7 years experience until 2011 when I came into contact with a mentally challenged person who picks leftover food from the trash bin and street vendors to feed his mentally challenged colleague on the streets of Accra.
His actions inspired me to start ‘Chefs for Change Ghana Foundation’ in 2013 which became known as Food for All Africa programme, a food recovery organization which operates West Africa’s first food bank in Ghana by creating sustainable means of nutrition for the vulnerable through food recovery, redistribution, farming and a forum for stakeholder’s within our food supply chain.
What is the current capacity and focus of the organization?
Today we recover between $8,000-12,000 worth of food to support 5845+ beneficiaries in six regions of Ghana. Our vision is to create efficiency and build community food banks across Africa.
What have been the successes and challenges this far?
Food for All Africa was in 2014 selected by the Dubai international Award for Best Practices as one of the 100 Global Best practices.
Our biggest challenge has been to institutionalize food donation in Ghana in order to create efficiency and sustainable means of nutrition. This year we have launched the National Food Donors Encouragement Bill project to facilitate it.
How did you hear of the ‘Queen’s Young Leaders Award?’
A colleague in Nigeria informed my team about the Queen’s Young Leaders Award and advised I should be nominated for our work at Food for All Africa. I was reluctant but finally gave into the idea.
How did it feel to be chosen as a recipient of the 2017 award?
When I was selected I felt very happy given the opportunity to meet the Queen and share our work in Ghana with a wider community. I also felt inspired for the recognition. I must say that I have enjoyed the Leading Change course that comes with being a Queen’s Young Leader.
Is this the first personal award you have won in the line of your work?
I have won awards in the past but I must confess that I am grateful for being a Queen’s Young Leader from the Commonwealth.
What are the future projections for your organization?
Food for All Africa programme in the next three years seeks to expand across Ghana and the sub-region. Our focus is to run a social enterprise model that creates efficiency and sustainable means of nutrition through recovery, redistribution, farming, and forum.
Our Waste4Food project aims to encourage waste segregation and create sustainable means of nutrition for low-income urban dwellers through the exchange of plastic and organic waste for food.
Group photo of Queen Elizabeth with recipients of the 2017 Queen Young Leaders Award
What advice would you give to other young people engaged in social work?
The future belongs to the youth and for every initiative in society that the youth carry out, we must seek partnership with the older generation and stakeholders. Identifying your passion can inspire you to achieve for humanity. Just like Horace Mann said “Be ashamed to die until you have scored some victory for humanity.”
How can Ghana and Africa at large continue to benefit from your project?
Food for All Africa is a shared social responsibility and as a socially responsible organization built on the principles of community-based advocacy, as entrepreneurs, we will work with stakeholder’s to bridge the gap between plenty and scarce through food donations across the continent.
Africa produces enough to feed it’s citizen’s and our responsibility is to ensure what we produce does not go to waste.
Who is Elijah Amoo Addo?
Elijah Amoo Addo is a 26-year-old Ghanaian chef and entrepreneur. I hail from Akuapem-Mampong in the Eastern region of Ghana and born to the late Naomi Amiokor Ntreh from Accra and late Ebenezer Awuku Addo.
What was the content of what looked like a long chat with Queen Elizabeth II during awards event?
The choice of my attire as a chef to receive my award was simply because it is my being a chef that landed me the accolade – the highest yet. The apron and cap signify professional pride if you want.
I spoke to the Queen at length, a summary of which is the subject of some cartoon pieces – that I will cook her a Ghanaian recipe called waakye.
Waakye is a mixture of beans with rice. It is eaten with spicy black pepper and stew. When that opportunity will come is yet to be determined.
Elijah and other under-30 young leaders from across the Commonwealth were in UK from 21st June, 2017 for training at the Cambridge University, they also visited a number of organizations (Facebook and the BBC offices) during a residential training then on 29th June, 2017, they had the privilege to receive their awards from The Queen at a ceremony at the Buckingham Palace.
A cartoon showing Elijah serving waakye to Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the Queen. Photo credit: Original Bigwig Cartoons
Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa
Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo