The culinary riches of the Congo

By Laura TomassiniLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Their menu speaks the language of their roots: At La Métisse restaurant, chef Magali Simba Kai and her husband take their guests on a journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The couple sees themselves as cultural ambassadors of the country, because whoever dines with them is immersed in the flavours of Central Africa.

It is a reflection of themselves, a reflection of what makes them and their roots, a tribute to their family: La Métisse is the restaurant and the realization of the dream of Magali Simba Kai, a native of Belgium with Congolese origins, who has been presenting the traditions and food of her country in Luxembourg since 2019. The name of the small restaurant, which is currently still located in rue de Neudorf but will move in the future, represents the passionate chef, because just like her restaurant, she is also "métisse", that is, the daughter of a couple of two different skin colours.

"La Métisse is like my story and also the one with my husband, because we are a mixed couple and have children of mixed skin colour", Magali explains. The family has lived in Luxembourg for 15 years; before that, Magali had very different home countries. "I was born in Belgium and consequently had a rather Belgian upbringing, went to school there and love Belgian fries. However, when I was four, I moved to Congo with my parents and lived there for 15 years until I was 20." Her heritage is influenced by both cultures, European and African – a combination her husband has also come to know and love.

The restaurant business in her genes

"My husband discovered the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2015. At that time, we already had our two children and the trips to my old homeland made me see the country again with new eyes. It has absolutely nothing to do with what you see about it on TV here", Magali says. The idea of bringing the culture of her ancestors to Belgium and later to Luxembourg through food had been brewing in the back of Magali's mind for a while, because running a restaurant is in her genes. "My paternal grandparents owned the very first hotel-restaurant in Kinshasa [in Congo, ed.], Le Jocol. Then in 1968 they opened the first Congolese restaurant in Brussels, so I was sort of born into the restaurant business."

A banker by training, at some point she had enough of stocks and interest rates and wanted to experience something new, something she could better identify with. Together with her husband, she had already started importing various products to Belgium after their trips to Congo, such as Congolese honey, pumpkin seeds and traditional ginger syrup. The couple also continued the small food sale in Luxembourg and presented the goods at international events, such as the "Lux African Market" or the "Festival des Migrations" at Luxexpo. But just selling wasn't enough for the cosmopolitan businessmen, who wanted to offer more.

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