A plantain enthusiast at heart, Rachel Laryea decided to embark on a journey at the intersection of food, culture, and community.
As a child growing up in a traditional Ghanaian home, Rachel often eagerly watched her mother fry plantains in the family’s age-old cast iron, black pot. She quickly grew a love for the fruit for its sweet taste, which was often paired with savory and spicy flavors. The first plantain dish she ever had was Kelewele, a popular Ghanaian street food comprised of fried plantains marinated in spices and served with groundnuts.
Equipped with a culinary curiosity after years of assisting her mother cook Ghanaian dishes, Rachel embarked college as a broke undergraduate who could always rely on plantains for cheap eats. Additionally, in her transition to a healthier, vegetarian lifestyle, plantains became her go-to ingredient as a nutritionally rich, vegan food. It was during this time that she first began to experiment with plantains by exploring their versatility and pairing them with bold flavors from across the globe. After college graduation, Rachel did what most millennials do and begrudgingly got a 9-5 job. However, she was hungry for more, and was often caught daydreaming about her intellectual and entrepreneurial ideas.
After cutting her teeth on Wall Street, Rachel left to pursue a dual Ph.D. in African American Studies and Socio-cultural Anthropology at Yale University. It was there that the recipe for Kelewele, her current venture, became clear to her. Culture. Food. Migration. Community. While Rachel’s love for plantains started in the U.S. (at least, as far as she can remember), it harkens back to the cultural practices of a people an ocean away in Ghana. Rachel came to realize that plantains, in their uniqueness, celebrate both Africa and its diaspora through the varied, yet connected, cultural practices of people in the U.S., Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Southeast Asia. As a result, Rachel launched Kelewele to showcase the diversity of Africa and its diaspora through healthy food, and bring people together from across the globe through their shared love for plantains.