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Food from the Roots

Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods 

A substantial portion of our cultures and traditions circulate around the memories we create around the dinner table, a place where we celebrate milestones, mend conflicts, nurture relationships, and find gratitude for life.

Food is the agent that nurtures and unites us all, regardless of cultural differences and language barriers. It is the element that allows us to embrace the many dimensions of our heritage and roots. Cooking techniques and culinary knowledge passed down through generations are of the oldest human rituals. As these culinary traditions are handed down, they become inherently ingrained in the way we interact and understand each other, allowing us to develop more compassion and awareness in our interactions with one another.

Dignified Storytelling joined efforts with the African Union and the Mexican Pavilion to co-curate “Food from the Roots”, an experience designed to create intimate and interactive conversations around the significance of food and nutrition security in different communities and cultures and how we can change the existing narratives across Africa and Latin America.

With the support of the influential voices of chefs and nutrition experts, under the African Union’s theme of the year, Food and Nutrition Security on food resilience, our chefs created bespoke menus to represent the 10 Dignified Storytelling Principles with stories from their “Roots”. These recipes and ingredients utilised the 10 Dignified Storytelling Principles to help Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want (aspiration 5), as well as SDG2 of Zero Hunger, into an inclusive conversation for all as we were taken on a sensational culinary journey through storytelling.

Speakers of the Day

The evening kicked off with the emcee, Kai Charles introducing the event followed by welcome remarks by Mexican Pavilion Director Bernardo Noval. Award-winning Mexican Chef Gerardo Vazquez Luco then presented guests with his dishes taking them on a gastronomical journey, and captivating them with intricately woven stories around each dish that highlighted the different Dignified Storytelling principles.

Guests then proceeded to Alkebulan, The African Dining Hall, where Ragy Saro, the Dignified Storytelling Lead shared the significance of Dignified Storytelling, followed by remarks by African Union Communications Director, Leslie Richers who reiterated the significance of the partnership between the African Union and Dignified Storytelling. Chef Coco and Chef Meme then took us on a journey around Africa through the tales of 10 bespoke dishes they specially curated for the gathering. 

Ragy Saro

Head of International Organisations at EXPO 2020 Dubai and Dignified Storytelling Lead

Bernardo Noval

Director of Mexico Pavilion at EXPO 2020 Dubai

Chef Gerardo Vazquez Lugo

Award-Winning Mexican Chef

Leslie Richer

Director of Information & Communication for the African Union 

Chef Coco Reinarhz

Epicure, Johannesburg

Bram Govaerts

Director General a.i. (Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer) of CIMMYT

Chef Mame Sow

Award-Winning Pastry Chef


Chef Ciprian Machangoh

Head Chef, Alkebulan

Kai Charles

Kai Lea Charles

Events Host, Entrepreneur and Founder, BlackGirlInDubai


Key learnings

By the time the evening came to an end, we hoped to have advocated for better food systems for all, that are more nutritious, less wasteful and above all – respectful of the earth. The event proved to be an effective platform to:

  • Spotlight food systems that are more productive and more inclusive of marginalised populations.
  • Raise an understanding of environmentally sustainable, resilient food production practises that deliver healthy and nutritious diets for all.
  • Gain a deeper insight of how we individually, and collectively, choose to farm, store and prepare food, and thus openly discuss innovative, yet sustainable methods towards unity of mind in rewriting our relationship with food and nutrition.   
  • Highlight the significance of food and nutrition security in different communities and cultures, and how we can unanimously strive to change the existing narratives.