”I was like many young people in France, we work in the restaurant industry and in other industries to be able to finance studies. Because from a relatively modest family. My mother being a cashier, I still had to roll up my sleeves to be able to finance my studies, pay for the apartment, etc. So we had to work anyway. And then the little student job turned out to be really pretty cool. I like what I do, it’s great, explains 28-year-old Charlie Koffi. But the young man has already had a rather unique career.
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Charlie Koffi started with training as a geneticist at the University of Bordeaux in France where he grew up and learned everything. Returning to Côte d’Ivoire two years ago, Charlie Koffi opened Villa Alfira, a rather special restaurant with an inclusive space where the young chef cultivates his own products with a fish farm, a farm and a small vegetable garden located in Abidjan.
“The reason why I chose Abidjan, because first of all, as an investor, I needed a liberal market, I needed a dynamic market with strong growth and a dynamic environment with a really consuming population. Ivory Coast is one of the countries where it is good to really invest. Where when you put your token you know that you have really interesting growth possibilities because you have an audience that is a consumer. And then the environment Because the barriers to entry are really much simpler than elsewhere.”
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If at the beginning the customers of the Alfira restaurant were confused because they discovered something new and different integrated on 3000 square meters with a splendid garden, the Alfira restaurant has become over time, a unique address in the Ivorian economic capital. . Chef Charlie Koffi is very happy to live his passion.
”Today, I’m really happy, because I took something that was quite out of step with the Ivorian environment. Surprising at first. Because the private rooms people say to each other but wait huurrr… the space is big why not make a big restaurant. I say no. Restaurants in Abidjan, there are too many open rooms. What looked like me, had to have a business that looked like me but in complete privacy. And there is another side too where privacy no longer has any meaning today. There is no longer a haven of peace, there is no longer a place like this where our privacy matters. At first the clientele was surprised by this. Today on the contrary; we are booked a month and a half to two months in advance at the level of the private rooms.”
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80% of what is prepared at Villa Alfira is organic. To run his restaurant, Charlie Koffi has recruited 40 employees, including twelve who work in the kitchen. Emrick Bohui is the commercial manager of Villa Alfira.
“He’s very passionate about his work. He really listens. He’s a very, very good boss. He loves pressure. That’s what’s lacking with him. And he rests very very little.”
Edwige Néné is one of the restaurant’s receptionists. She has been working there for a year.
”He masters the art of cooking, and then he gives us training. He teaches us a lot. To all the staff let’s say. It’s already a plus. His fault is that he is there all the time. The leader is the first to be there.”
Lucien Digbeu, butler at Villa Alfira is happy to work with a demanding and rigorous chef.
“Chef Koffi, whom I always call the chef of chefs, is a boss who is good, who is kind. But at the same time who is rigorous, who likes a job meticulously well done and who encourages his employees to be What impressed me the most about my boss is that everyone around him is better.”
Chef Charlie Koffi has made a successful return and integration. He calls on his comrades who are still in Europe to come back to invest in Africa. He also calls on leaders to create the conditions for a winning return for young people from the diaspora.
“I really call for the reparte movement, we call the reparte like that. So that means it’s all this African diaspora who went abroad to train, to work, for various reasons, I’m calling them to come back. Because it’s true, it’s through this positive energy that we can breathe new life into the continent like that. But are returns easy? No! A return is preparing. Once there, there is a gap between what you have planned and then the reality. The major difficulties are of a cultural nature. In Europe some things are done more quickly, the deadlines are more shortcuts. There’s no question of corruption blocking your ideas. When you come with your European mentality, it’s very complicated. You have to get used to it. And then the other one chose who is really different. is the support of the state. I am not saying that the state does nothing. But I am saying that the state can do much more to support this return. By setting up a much more serene and easier environment for returns. The environment is really not easy.”
Côte d’Ivoire and its rich and varied gastronomy can thus benefit from chef Charlie Koffi who brings a special touch to this Ivorian gastronomy in the heart of nature, like an oasis in the heart of Abidjan.
Charlie Koffi has decided to go from three hundred to four hundred seats this summer and before the end of the year, the young Ivorian cook plans to open his second restaurant in San Pedro in the south-west of the country. Thus little by little Charlie Koffi extends his know-how in his country.