Chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, Pierre Thiam was raised in Dakar, Senegal, a bustling and culturally diverse metropolis on the west coast of Africa.
Although he developed an interest in the culinary arts at an early age, he studied physics and chemistry from the city’s Cheikh Anta Diop University. Thiam moved to New York in the late 1980s where he began working in a number of restaurants. His bottom-level entry steadily led upward, and by early 2000 he opened his first restaurant, Yolele, a visionary African bistro in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. His second outlet, Le Grand-Dakar Restaurant followed, opening in neighboring Clinton Hill three years later; it quickly became a culinary and cultural locus for Africans from the continent and the Diaspora.
Currently he owns Pierre Thiam Catering, which introduces a diverse, savvy New York clientele to contemporary interpretations of ethnic flavors; he also serves as consulting chef for a number of restaurants in the City and beyond.
When out of his own kitchen, Thiam regularly gives lectures and cooking classes at venues such as the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE), The International Culinary Center (ICC), Boston University (BU), NYU, The New School or The Natural Gourmet.
On the global front, in 2011, as part of a State Department sponsored program, he led a North Carolina Central University’s symposium on the influence of African food in Latin America. In May 2012, Thiam was a guest chef at the Havana Biennial (Cuba), and in June 2012, he received the African Travel Association’s Development of Responsible Tourism Award in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Southern Africa).
In the spring of 2013, he introduced leading world culinary figures to the complexity and richness of African cuisine, by organizing and hosting a trip to Dakar for a dozen visiting chefs from around the world. In the Fall of 2014, in Kinshasa (DRC), Thiam presented a menu themed “Underutilized African Crops” for delegates of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and of the African Union (AU). In November 2014, Thiam was a guest speaker at the African Travel Association’s World Congress in Kampala, Uganda. In January 2015, Thiam was the guest chef at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto (Canada).
His first cookbook, Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal (Lake Isle Press, 2009), was a finalist for the Julia Child Cookbook Award, 2009, presented by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) in Denver. In February 2010, Yolele! won the Gourmand World Cookbook’s Special Jury Award at the Paris World Cookbook Fair.
Thiam’s latest book, Senegal, Modern Recipes from the Source to the Bowl (Lake Isle Press), was released in September 2015.
Thiam has appeared on several TV and radio programs, including the Food Network’s Iron Chef, Gourmet Getaways, Sara’s Secrets, ABC’s Eyewitness News, NBC’s TODAY,NPR’s Splendid Table and CNN International.