Arts + Culture

Afropreneurs: Fred Apaloo's Villa Grace is Shaking Up Ghana's Fine Dining Scene

Okayafrica speaks with Fred Apaloo on how Villa Grace, his boutique dining company, is changing Ghana's fine dining scene.

Ghanaian chef Fred Apaloo is serving up elaborate brunches at his Accra pop-ups. He’s part of a budding fine-dining scene in the Ghanaian capital that emphasizes international flavors.

With a growing number of Ghanaian professionals returning home from abroad, Accra’s food scene is in the midst of a revolution. Alongside newly launched restaurants—Tea Baa, Neem Grill and Café KwaeVilla Grace, Apaloo’s boutique dining company, is leading the charge to help more Ghanaians rethink their relationship with food.

Villa Grace has quickly become one of Accra’s most exclusive and unique dining experiences. Through intimate pop-up brunches, the brand has gained a large following, selling out tables weeks in advance. And yet, despite the careful preparation that goes into each Villa Grace event, its creation happened almost by chance.

Photo courtesy of Fred Apaloo.

When Apaloo moved home from Miami in 2015 to spend more time with his mother, he spent much of his downtime experimenting in the kitchen and documenting his creations via Instagram. “As I posted the photos, I had a lot of people message me asking if I’d cook for them, so I started a series called ‘Brunch Friends,’” he says. “I’d lay out a spread every Saturday, and I’d plate it nicely as if we were in a restaurant in the comfort of my home.”

After two cousins encouraged him to create an Instagram page as a platform for a social media blog, he launched Villa Grace as a food photography project. The overwhelmingly positive response led him to develop a pop-up dining experience a few weeks later.

“I studied hospitality management and I have a background in hospitality and service, so the whole concept wasn’t brand new to me,” Apaloo tells Okayafrica. “In Miami, pop-ups are common, but they’re still a new concept in Accra. Our first brunch, the ‘Genesis’ brunch, featured six courses and went extremely well. After I saw the reviews, I realized I could really launch it into a concept.”

In West Africa, where the kitchen is often perceived as the domain of women, some might view Apaloo’s choice to branch into catering as unusual. He dismisses such comments with a laugh. According to him, “Skills aren’t gendered. You don’t have to be a man to be a doctor or a woman to cook. Culinary skills are about artistry and individual talent.”

Photo courtesy of Fred Apaloo.

Named after his beloved grandmother, Villa Grace celebrates her painstakingly meticulous approach to entertaining. Apaloo credits his appreciation for presentation, excellence, and natural ingredients to time spent following his grandmother around the kitchen and garden growing up. “I saw the love and the care she put into the food she made, and at a young age, I made the connection between effort and product when it comes to food,” he says.

For Apaloo, brunch is not just about food, but also an opportunity for friends and laughter.

Having lived in Miami, the land of boozy brunches, the self-described gastronomist keeps the champagne flowing at most events. Moët & Chandon, one of the world’s largest champagne houses, sponsored Villa Grace’s most recent pop-up, “Endless Summer by Fred Apaloo.”

Now, Villa Grace has over four public brunches under its belt, and a burgeoning clientele of private catering clients. Down the road, Apaloo sees additional room for growth. “The Villa Grace concept is ultimately a boutique restaurant – a home-away-from-home space with good food, good company, and good laughs. Our pop-up dining series is paving the road for that.”

While Villa Grace’s price tag ($80 to $100) may be out of the reach of most locals, Accra’s rapidly rising middle class may deem the luxury of experiential dining well worth the cost. As Ghana’s food industry continues to grow, Villa Grace is poised to take over and re-define fine dining, Africa-style.

Follow Villa Grace on Instagram to see some of Apaloo’s work and to learn more about upcoming events.


Interview: Wavy The Creator Is Ready to See You Now

The multidisciplinary Nigerian-American artist on tapping into all her creative outlets, creating interesting things, releasing a new single and life during quarantine.

A trip canceled, plans interrupted, projects stalled. It is six months now since Wavy the Creator has had to make a stop at an undisclosed location to go into quarantine and get away from the eye of the pandemic.

The professional recording artist, photographer, writer, fashion artist, designer, and evolving creative has been spending all of this time in a house occupied by other creatives. This situation is ideal. At least for an artist like Wavy who is always in a rapid motion of creating and bringing interesting things to life. The energy around the house is robust enough to tap from and infuse into any of her numerous creative outlets. Sometimes, they also inspire trips into new creative territories. Most recently, for Wavy, are self-taught lessons on a bass guitar.

Wavy's days in this house are not without a pattern, of course. But some of the rituals and personal rules she drew up for herself, like many of us did for internal direction, at the beginning of the pandemic have been rewritten, adjusted, and sometimes ditched altogether. Some days start early and end late. Some find her at her sewing machine fixing up thrift clothes to fit her taste, a skill she picked up to earn extra cash while in college, others find her hard at work in the studio, writing or recording music.

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