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African Chef Lives American Dream in Greenwich

From the Ivory Coast in West Africa to Greenwich in western Connecticut: You could say that Francois Kwaku-Dongo is living the American dream. Kwaku-Dongo, executive chef at L'escale , came to the United States to babysit his nephew but discovered a passion for cooking.

"I had just finished college, and my dream had always been to be a translator because I love languages," he said. "So my brother sponsored me to come to America." Kwaku-Dongo grew up in the Ivory Coast with his mother, brother and sister. "My mom and my sister did most of the cooking for the compound we lived in," he said. "Growing up, it never occurred to me that cooking was something that I would take on."

He began his career in food as a night cleaner in restaurants until Chef Francesco Antonucci asked him to become a dishwasher at his new restaurant, Alo Alo, and then worked his way up the culinary ladder. "My love for food started to develop once I saw young talented chefs from Italy who had such passion about food," Kwaku-Dongo said. "I found cooking fascinating because not only are you making food for people but also bringing back childhood memories."

He perfected his skills with legendary chef Wolfgang Puck at Spago in West Hollywood and became known as "the Risotto King." He said celebrities would come in and Puck would have him make his famous risotto for them. He worked for Puck at a number of different locations.

He moved to Greenwich in 2005. "I fell in love with the setting," he said. "I have two young children, and it seemed like a great place to hang my hat for a while."

Kwaku-Dongo took his inspiring journey and began inspiring others through his charity work. In Greenwich, he helps raise money for the American Red Cross and Greenwich Hospital because he wants to give people who have nothing a helping hand.

Kwaku-Dongo approaches the food business with the same sense of friendliness. "I need to see a familiar face everyday, as if you you're coming to eat at your home. My mom used to cook for everybody and now I know why she did it."

Have you tried Chef Francois Kwaku-Dongo's cooking? What is your favorite dish? Leave a comment below or on Facebook !

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