Some may call opening a restaurant like Teranga risky, but to chef and owner Marie-Claude Mendy it was a very calculated dream that came true. Marie-Claude opened Teranga after taking 7 years to develop her business plan and select Boston's South End as the ideal location for her restaurant. Finally, in 2009, Marie-Claude opened Teranga, the first and only Senegalese restaurant in Boston.

Like Andres Branger of Orinoco, Mendy had lived in the South End for several years before opening Teranga. She loved the feel of the neighborhood, as well as its lovely architecture and parks. Most of all Mendy recognized how many wonderful and diverse restaurants were opening and how the neighborhood welcomed different cuisines. The South End is a true culinary destination where diners can explore a variety of cuisines, making it was the perfect location to serve up Senegal's unique dishes.
Chef Mendy is a hoot. She made me feel right at home in her restaurant and her jokes and boogie breaks kept us all laughing throughout our shoot. In the kitchen, Mendy and I bonded over a shared love of black-eyed peas and millet, two of the many ingredients commonly used and grown in Senegal. Not all of the cuisine was so familiar — Mendy taught me a whole new approach to skinning peas and using grey millet in a dessert called thiacry. I also never thought that spring rolls would be on the menu at an African restaurant, but Chef Mendy explained that Senegal and Vietnam were both French colonies, and the cuisines share influences.

After making accara, black-eyed pea fritters, we went on to make thiebou yap, a lamb and broken jasmine rice dish. All of the flavors from the lamb, spices, and vegetables slowly cooked into the rice and made the dish incredibly rich and satisfying. Arroz con gandules, or rice with pigeon peas, and arroz con pollo, chicken and rice, are two of my Puerto Rican comfort foods. Now I can add this rice and lamb dish to the rotation, just in time for fall and winter!
During my visit to Teranga, I learned so much about Senegalese culture and cuisine and discovered new uses for ingredients I commonly use. But Chef Mendy's exuberance and commitment to her dreams inspired me even more than the delicious food. Did I mention she speaks five languages and decided to settle in Boston only after living in Dakar, Paris, London and Washington, D.C.? She's an amazing woman. Teranga may be Mendy's first restaurant, but I am sure it will not be her last culinary offering in New England.