OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Midlands African Chamber's Pitch Black competition is now down to five finalists.
One of the minority businesses in the contest is an African catering business.
The owner's mother taught him his way around the kitchen as he was a child in Togo, Africa.
As 3 News Now Anchor Serese Cole reports, it's now his mission to teach others about African's rich and flavorful cuisine.
Cooking is Chef Jamil Bah-Traore's calling.
"Although I wanted to cook in Africa, you can't kind of vision it as a profession. So, I studied accounting. When I got here, I went to Bellevue and studied business," Chef Jamil said.
But business isn't his passion.
"I felt like (I had) this itch. I have to do this because I don't want to be 80 years old and then regret my life. So, I dropped everything. I quit my job," he said.
After years in corporate America, Chef Jamil gave in to his culinary craving and created House of Bah.
His catering company features upscale African cuisine.
"I do catering, I do personal chef events, I do training, meal planning and consulting," he said.
A lot of services with just one goal.
"We want to take African food from the traditional food and put it on the map so that it can be fine dining," he explained. "So that's my goal now. The House of Bah was created to get people to see African cuisine in a different light."
He uses everyday foods like greens, cornmeal and salmon while incorporating unique and bold African flavors.
The key is the herbs and spices.
"Our tagline is that we do fusion tastefully, and I want people to have a different kind of burst of flavor in the mouth when they eat our food," he added.
His final products are mouthwatering masterpieces he says he could serve at any fine dining restaurant.
Chef Jamil doesn't just want to create delicious African food for the community, he also wants to educate people about African cuisine. Right now, he's teaching classes at City Sprouts, Step Up Omaha and online.
That's where his nonprofit Eat N Talk Africa comes in.
"Step Up gives me a chance to educate youth not only professionally and about hospitality work, but you can talk to them about other cuisines like African cuisine," he explained. "I feel like education is going to lead people to ask questions about this cuisine."
He said everyone should learn about African food and experience it for themselves.
"If you think about it, we have tapped into every other cuisine in the world. African cuisine is the only cuisine we haven't tapped into, and they have to know about it," Chef Jamil informed.
"It's just so unique that you want people to know about it because they are missing out, they're missing out," he said with a smile.
Chef Jamil said he worked years at Metro hotels and restaurants but never saw upscale African cuisine served.
He does pop-up events around town. You can check his website for details or call (402) 915-9608 to make a catering reservation.
If you'd like to see Chef Jamil and the other Pitch Black finalists compete for the grand $10,000 prize, you can watch the competition in person.
It will be held on August 28th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn. To purchase a ticket to the event, go to wepitchblack.com.