How Top Chef Eric Adjepong Is Introducing West African Flavors To The U.S.

Photo: Tanqueray Gin

Chef Eric Adjepong knows fancy. The Ghanaian-American Chef was first introduced to the masses via the hit cooking competition show, "Top Chef." Since then, he’s gone on to be featured on a host of food shows like "Alex Vs America," "Guy’s Grocery Games" and mostly recently on "Tournament of Champions." 

Beyond his on-camera work, Chef Adjepong recently hosted the Tanqueray Gin's "Damn Fancy" Dinner Sweepstakes where one winner was flown to New York City for an extravagant dining experience. Known for infusing West African flavors into his recipes, he curated two dishes to pair with Tanqueray’s signature cocktails: the Dirty Martini, French 75 and Sevilla Negroni.

In celebration of the occasion, we talked to Chef Adjepong about all things fancy including his reality competition experience, becoming a media personality, and more.

Most people were first introduced to you via Top Chef. What inspired you to audition for the show? 


I've always been a fan of the show and I fell in love with Season 6 of the show. I liked those on the show and knew that if I was confident enough in my skills then I can get on a show like that, too. 

How did that experience change your career? Did it change your cooking? 

It exposed my cuisine to a lot of people who were unfamiliar along with my personality. I think with that alone, I've been able to parlay that into a lot of opportunities 

How has being Ghanian-American shaped your cuisine?

It's the POV that I have when it comes to cooking food. It's like second nature to me, so many of my influences—from the places I've worked and traveled to the people I've met—shape my culinary style. Ultimately, it's this second nature aspect of cooking that shines through in the dishes I create.

How do you introduce West African food to American audiences who are unfamiliar with it?

I think you do so with strategy. It's got to be strategic. I think doing it with things that are staples and adding in African flavors to that. So, I do like a nice yassa burger with the Senegalese yassa jam. Obviously, folks know what a burger is, but it's giving them something that's a little bit different while offering something that's comforting, I think this is a really good start and really educational. It really calls for the audience as well to want to know more about the cuisine, the ingredients used, and how things are made for that education to kind of hit as well. The introduction is small, but I think eventually the goal is to bring it to the forefront in a way that is celebrated, obvious and can be one of the go-to staples as far as cuisines are concerned in the world, especially here in America.


How do you see the cuisine expanding its reach in the US?

Again, education. I think that's a huge deal. It starts with folks like me from the continent that are here in America now that cook the food, that have an African point of view, and want to tell stories behind it as well. Again, there needs to be an audience to receive it. I hope it's not trendy. I hope it's really like a true buy-in to the cuisine and to the people talking about it and cooking the food. I think that's really the way to do it. It's really about educating. You know, small offerings that can eventually turn into big offerings and things like that.

Photo: Tanqueray Gin

"Top Chef" and subsequent TV appearances also lead to partnership opportunities. What interested you most about this partnership with Tanqueray? 

Number one, I am a huge fan of the brand and the spirit. When I think of Tanqueray, I think of fancy, classy, and come as you are. When the opportunity came up, I thought I could pair a really cool menu with a cool spirit. 


What was the inspiration for the ‘Damn Fancy Dinner’ menu? 

The inspiration behind the ‘Damn Fancy’ Dinner menu was pulled from a mood board we had which was a woman in a fancy dress and a man in a tuxedo with a messy burger in hand. We wanted to remind everyone that no matter how fancy or simple your dish may be, it’s the little touches–like a specialty Tanqueray Dirty Martini with an olive garnish–that help put the damn in Damn Fancy. It embodies that down to earth feeling, just enjoying the moment. The menu is inspired by fancy ingredients, but an easy-going approach to the food that pairs well with Tanqueray. 

What makes a dinner ‘Damn Fancy’? 

I think dinner is Damn Fancy in any way you make it. For me, ‘Damn Fancy’ allows me to be eccentric yet simple in my cooking and that same feeling can really be emulated in everyone’s own unique way. Whether you’re eating at a Michelin Star restaurant or hosting close friends and family over for martinis and charcuterie, it’s all about elevating the everyday with Tanqueray. Owning a space, owning the room and being confident in what you're making. 

What's next for you? 

Season 4 of "Alex vs America" on Food Network, "Tournament of Champions" on Food Network, my book coming this summer, and sleep!