Mory Sacko: Experience the kitchen as a democratic laboratory

The common saying goes: To be a rock star, you have to be a bad boy. Ripping your clothes, sticking out your tongue, and one disappointment after another for your family. For some it is a sophisticated recipe. However, others prefer to write the ingredient lists themselves, and to hell with books. One of them was described by the Guardian as “the best politician ever”, and it was not for nothing that Emmanuel Macron invited him to cook at a summit between France and the main political players of the African continent in 2021. She posed for Boss and Ralph Lauren. He was one of the 30 European Forbes Under30 for 2022. He is the third French chef to land on the cover of Time (the others: Michel Guérard, 1976, Alain Ducasse, 2001). He has three restaurants, one Michelin star, thirty years old – no, come on, thirty-one. He's an incurably good boy, although we'll leave the definition to rhetoric, since he's not exactly shabby. He is Mory Sacko and tonight we will see him as a guest on the thirteenth edition of MasterChef Italia (Sky original show produced by Endemol Shine Italy, every Thursday on Sky and streaming NOW and always available on demand).

Credits: Sky

We meet Sacko, he smiles. Maybe he's amused because we had to recruit a translator from French for a conversation and our Zoom call had the air of a UN summit. Perhaps it is the light of this unconsciousness mixed with intuition that one can only allow no conditions, and Sacko, born in 1992, seems to understand that. There must be a secret weapon somewhere. There is no other way to explain how his beef mafè – a sauce-filled stew prepared in various ways across West Africa and served by Sacko deconstructed with mafè sauce, butter-cured beef and tamarind gel – appeals to the palates of culinary-savvy Parisians has captivated ties to a continent they have treated like their backyard for more than a few years. The answer may lie in the dish's mix of influences, which combines European preparations (greasing the meat with butter and salt, for example) with Japanese tricks (white miso in the sauce, yes, we say it). umami) and enriches the fundamentals of traditional African cuisine, or rather Malian and Senegalese, such as the origins of Sacko's parents.

In literature it would be called postmodernism. The Boomers, on the other hand: Gen Z, those who shamelessly innovate without having to justify themselves. And in fact, understand us, isn't it interesting to ask Chef Sacko “why” he decided to tie these three threads together. The answer is obvious: if the kitchen belongs to Mory Sacko, then he must be there. “I am French, my parents are Malian and Senegalese, and then I am fascinated by Japan, I have studied their flavors, how they compose them and I try to use part of them in my dishes to enrich them.” Maybe is the truth is simply that I love manga and anime. In fact, there is a quote from Sanji on his personal website one piece: “Cooking is a gift from the gods, spices are a gift from the devil.” Looks like it was a little too spicy for you.”

Mory forward Then Sacko. He was born in Seine-et-Marne, a part of the Île-de-France to the right of Paris, and attended hotel management school there: “A first basic approach to French cuisine.” We are a really big family, I am the seventh of nine siblings and mom always cooked at home, so they are traditional African recipes. This is the first part of me, my first contact with food. Malian and Senegalese preparations can take a long time, and I stood around the kitchen taking in all the smells and atmosphere. That is the meaning that I still associate with food today: being together, being a family.” In short, not just Massimo Bottura’s Madeleine tortellini, stolen raw from under the table. Here, for example, it's chicken yassa, slow-cooked with onions, spices and chili, served with white rice. Malian influences are particularly evident in Sacko's cuisine. Translated it means vegetables, meat, grains, because “Mali is a state.” Inlandwithout landings at sea, and its food is that of a simple, agricultural culture linked to the land.

However, he gained his first experience in the kitchen while finishing school in an Italian restaurant, and indeed: “I love everything about Italian cuisine.” I want to take the time to get to know the area around Bologna and Emilia better, and I'm looking at Francescana over [great minds think alike, ndr]travel”. Then the adult games, which for Sacko take place primarily under the multi-star Thierry Marx. This is where the feeling for Japan is refined and begins to take hold in Sacko's hands. “Chef Marx was an important teacher for me, perhaps even more so more of an inspiration. Under him I not only learned more about Japanese preparations and culture, but also learned how to lead a kitchen team in a humane way. This may seem like a given today, but it is not, especially in France where the Professional etiquette is still very strict. The first few times on the line can be really nerve-wracking.

The last gust of wind comes in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. Sacko takes part in the largest television competition for professional chefs in France. Top chef. He doesn't win, but he takes home the love of the audience and a whole new celebrity, like a tangerine waiting to be peeled – there's always that smile, that indescribable but present humanity that accompanies his presence. Sacko removes all our hangnails and re-opens MoSuke in 2020, his first restaurant, which will be the first star restaurant with “African” cuisine in France just a few months after its opening. No menu, or only tasting menu, but without a visible menu, also with a vegetarian option. Fourteenth Arrondissement, 35 seats. The name is, once again, very him, a portmanteau of the name of Yasuke, a former African slave who will become the first black-skinned samurai in Japan, and “Mory.” For Sacko“It's nice to be the first, but I hope others join in.” When I attended hotel management school, no star chef looked like me. […] And African cuisine had no reference points in the world of haute cuisine [ancora oggi, la Michelin non pubblica edizioni per l’Africa, o i Caraibi, ndr]. Now we're breaking the glass ceiling, and I hope young people realize that to get a star, the cuisine doesn't necessarily have to be European or Asian.” Do you understand this political stuff now?

In the end, Sacko tells us: “French gastronomy is dying, or rather, it is struggling to renew itself, it needs further stimulus.” I believe that France, like any cuisine, must become a laboratory , a space in which you can experiment with new ways of being together. Both in the cities themselves and on the plate. I am often asked whether my path has been more difficult given my family's background. I never thought in that sense, I was born in Europe and above all the cuisine is democratic. Either you do it well or you don't do it well, there are no excuses. Maybe my age difference with most of my colleagues comes to light here: they face these problems, I don't. If there is one thing that made the difference in my journey, it was the fact that I was young. Because you can make mistakes, fall over, and repeat. When I had the idea for MoSuke, I knew it would be a small revolution for Paris, but I wasn’t afraid.”

Optimism, courage, hand of a god? Perhaps. However, the formula seems to hold. After Top chefMory returned permanently to French screens as host of the show Cuisine Ouverte: a play on words, because the kitchen is both “open” in the sense of the guests present, including journalists, chefs and public figures; both of the infinity that Sacko has made his stylistic trademark; and again for the locations of the show, which has a station like an outdoor challenge à la MasterChef outdoors. In the background idyllic landscapes or landmarks of France. But not that he wasn't busy in real life too, in real life: First came MoSugo's casual dining at Galleria Gourmet Lafayette, which specializes in fried chicken sandwiches and chips — “comfort food,” as they call it. And then, in a very fresh opening, the takeover of the historic Lafayette's together with the Moma Group: Here the menu is much more Francophile, somewhere between brasserie and fine dining. Because we know that Montesquieu is the other way around: primarily French, a man only by chance.

Now all that's missing is a character based on him – or a cameo, why not – in the third season of The bear. Even though, as he swears, he was never looking for media or cooking fame: “I'm a chef, I cook, that's what I can do.” The rest is all a game. Actually, I just ask myself one thing: I want people to forget about “fusion food”. Everything else is boring. Or the old Gallic gastronomy. Elio Altare, Barolo Boy, was right when he said that tradition is ultimately just successful innovation. Let's hope we soon have a world where Mory Sacko is the rule and not the exception.

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