The owners of the Roger Sherman Inn announced Monday that they’ve hired a West Africa native who has trained under prominent chefs both in the United States and abroad as their new executive chef.
Francois Kwaku-Dongo is a 2008 “Iron Chef” contestant and James Beard nominee who has been featured in Forbes magazine and elsewhere as an up-and-coming celebrity chef, according to information supplied by Nes and Joseph Jaffre.
“With this wonderful addition we’re positive that we’ll bring the Inn to it’s well deserved glory,” the Jaffres said. “With his philosophy of bringing his diners only the freshest of the season—a true farm to table commitment, with on-premise farm in the planning already—he’ll be bringing the fabulous back to New Canaan cuisine.”
Most recently, Kwaku-Dongo worked for seven years at L’Escale Restaurant on Greenwich Harbor as executive chef, then followed a dream by creating Chocolate Lab, a pastry and gelato shop where he produced his own chocolate line using raw material produced entirely in Ghana, where he operated a cocoa factory, according to the biography supplied by the Jaffres.
In New Canaan at Roger Sherman Inn—which doubles as New Canaan’s first library—Kwaku-Dongo enters a local establishment that’s made headlines in the past year. A developer who identified himself as contract purchaser on the historic property brought forward a plan to create a set of single-family dwellings on the Oenoke Ridge Road lot—a proposal that the Planning & Zoning Commission ultimately denied. As word spread that the Roger Sherman Inn faced the wrecking ball and permanent closure, locals rallied to support the restaurant.
An Ivory Coast native, Kwaku-Dongo left Africa in 1981 and moved to New York City to study literature at Manhattan’s Borough College, it said. He worked in restaurants in New York and landed a sous chef position at Remi restaurant under chef Francesco Antonucci. There, he met chef Wolfgang Puck, who brought Kwaku-Dongo to California and had him working at Chinois on Main in Los Angeles, Granita in Malibu and Postrio in San Francisco.
Kwaku-Dongo then worked as sous chef under chef Makoto Tanaka at Spago in West Hollywood, and the two traveled to Japan together to study the nation’s cuisine and technique. He later trained with a number of prominent French chefs, including Marc Meneau at L’Esperance in Saint-Pere-sou-Vezelay, Bernard Loiseau at La Cote d’Or.
Ultimately, according to his bio, Kwaku-Dongo became executive chef at Spago in 1992. Four years later, he opened Spago in Chicago, and oversaw the development and openings of Wolfgang Puck Catering and Events.
Kwaku-Dongo lives in Greenwich with his wife, Ruth, and their children, Joseph-Paul and Christine-Elizabeth.