Chef Francis Otoo of Ghana wins Africa silver at Embassy Chef Challenge

Chef Francis Otoo
A busy-looking Chef Francis Otoo at the 2018 ECC. Photo courtesy Oral Ofori

Although Chef Sincioco-Mateo of the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, District of Columbia (DC), won gold in both the Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice categories with “sisig”, a traditional Filipino dish, Africa rose to the tops again at the 2018 Embassy Chef Challenge (ECC) with Chef Francis Otoo of Ghana claiming silver.

Chef Francis Otoo’s signature dish of lamb “Jollof” ranked second on May 17, 2018, at the annual ECC. Events DC — the body responsible for promoting events in the US federal capital — organized the ECC presented by the Trade Center Management Associates (TCMA) at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

Jollof is a single-pot rice dish cooked with a tomato-based stew along with preferred meat, fish or poultry. It is popular in West Africa, where it originated in the Wollof Empire of present-day Senegal.

Chef Francis Otoo’s Embassy Chef Challenge victory journey

Chef Francis Otoo
Chef Otoo with his awards. Photo courtesy Fransar Catering Services

Chef Otoo who represented the embassy of Ghana at the 10th-anniversary edition of the ECC came second by winning both the Judges’ and People’s Choice Awards. This double honor comes after the fifth straight year of his participation in the culinary competition where international chefs promote the food and culture of their respective countries.

I can’t believe I won two awards, it’s just amazing and at the same time humbling, I thank my God, my wife, the embassy of Ghana here in DC and its Ambassador; Dr. Barfour Adjei-Barwuah, and my fans who kept me going every year even though I never won back then. They are the reason I am here now — with two awards — this is for Ghana and all of Africa,” Chef Otoo said to

The Ghanaian Executive Chef went on to say that “almost a year ago I was a judge at the first ever Jollof Festival organized in Washington, DC. Fast forward to today, I am witnessing my lamb Jollof declared 2nd best out of many meals cooked by chefs from 27 different other countries within the Washington DC diplomatic community. It tells me that the global appeal for Jollof is here and well established, and yes I still think Ghana Jollof is the best.

Erik A. Moses – Senior VP and Managing Director at Events DC Sports & Entertainment in an interview with described Chef Otoo as a fan favorite, he also said the organizers view “this event as a quintessential Washington DC event and there are very few places in the country that you can do something like this and experience the culture, the food, the music, the wine, from countries all around the world.” Washington, DC has some 177 embassies.

Africa’s performance at the Embassy Chef Challenge

It is interesting to note that last year, another African meal also with lamb won the top award when Morocco’s Chef Moha Fedal’s Marrakech Tangia made with lamb shoulder sealed in a clay Tangia jar captured the Judges’ Choice Award. Chef Fedal was present this year as a member of the panel of judges. Morocco’s Chef Nazha Kasaraoui won the jury and public prizes at the first ever Embassy Chef Challenge in 2009.

This year Morocco again scored a win for Africa when she was adjudged “Best Dressed Embassy.” For the first time too, Music from Ghana provided diplomatic representations at the event with entertainment when US-based Ghanaian group the “Dreams” led by Nathan Pryce, ensured that there was authentic music from Ghana to go with Chef Otoo’s lamb Jollof.

The Embassy of the Republic of Haiti placed third in the Judges’ Choice, and the Embassy of Colombia won the other third place by winning the People’s Choice Award while the Embassy of Barbados clinched the Best Beverage award.

A total of 28 countries participated in this year’s event spread across the continents of Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Africa. Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Visit for more information about the event.

Written by Oral Ofori

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