As the pandemic spread all over the world and most nations went into lockdown, Renee Chuks, a trained chef, started experimenting with making pasta from cassava in her Lagos kitchen.
Chuks used locally grown crops like cassava and plantain to create hand-made pasta infused with herbs. The chef now sells these products via her company, Aldente Africa, which she set up two years ago.
Aldente Africa is among the first companies to make gluten-free pasta in Nigeria, she says. The country is one of the world’s biggest producers of cassava, a root vegetable rich in minerals and Vitamin C. Chuks says Africa should make more use of its locally grown crops to help improve food security on the continent.
“We looked inward to like, what kind of products we have that we eat every day. Cassava is one of our major, major products … so we figured let’s start with that, if we are able to get good success with cassava then everything else will follow,” Chuks informed news agency Reuters from her company’s base in Lagos.
The chef also uses plantain and fonio, a small grain crop grown in West Africa. She infuses them with local herbs and vegetables, giving some of her pasta a green or pinkish tint. Elegantly packed, her products retail at US$2-US$5 per pack of pasta and cater to the affluent customer for now.
Wheat-based pasta is a staple food in Nigeria and Chuks sees plenty of room for growth in the market for her plant-based products, which she sells online and in health shops. Her company also makes alcoholic wines made from hibiscus plant and sells herbs for cooking.