Nearly a year ago, the chef Eric Adjepong stood in Macau on the set of the “Top Chef,” having made it to the finals of the cooking competition show. The only thing standing between him and the title was a four-course meal, served in two parts. He’d decided to use his menu to show the judges how influential Africa’s culinary heritage is on other parts of the world, including America.
“I wanted to tell the story of the trans-Atlantic slave trade from Africa through Caribbean ports, the American South and South America through food,” he said recently. “It’s an unfortunate story, but one that needs to be told.”
Mr. Adjepong, 31, is first-generation Ghanaian-American, and grew up in the Little Ghana neighborhood of the Bronx. He was the first West African contestant on “Top Chef,” which just aired its 16th season, introducing some viewers and judges to dishes like fufu and egusi stew.
And then, after the first course, Mr. Adjepong was eliminated, after the jerk sauce in his Jamaican-inspired steak tartare overwhelmed the flavor of the beef, and his yuca chip garnish spent too much time in the fryer. He lost to two white Southern chefs, which he found ironic: “Their story is rooted in West Africa, too,” he said, “just in a different way.”