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Mohamed Bonkoungou: The grand Diasporan

Nayaba Arinde | 4/12/2011, 5:27 p.m.

Listeners on the Internet include folk as close as Chicago and as far as Paris, France, the Caribbean and parts of the Continent.

"They call long distance and they are concerned about what's going on in New York and they give us information."

Reflecting, Bonkoungou added, "I was a cook in a hotel back home. My adopted father taught me how to cook. The embassy was looking for someone to cook and I was selected. I do enjoy it. If you're doing something you love, you do it with ease because it's something you love. If you are doing a job where there is pressure and you're not enjoying it, then it is not good."

Bonkoungou has been at Manna's since 2001. "I am the senior chef," he smiles warmly. "You have to be very careful when you are cooking for people. You have to make sure that all the seasonings are right, but also that all the temperatures are correct: the ovens, the food that needs to be kept cool. Everything has to be controlled. You cannot have any spoiled food. I am an all-around cook. I am a Muslim, but I do cook all types of food--I just don't eat all types of food."

A practicing Muslim, Bonkoungou said, "With my friends, I celebrate every holiday, and my friends celebrate Muslim holidays like Ramadan. I celebrate Christian holidays with them and I enjoy it with them. You should not separate yourself because we are not different. Holidays and religion should not separate us."

The comfortable Diasporan loves his Bronx-Harlem "commute."

"I know New York City and I love New York," said Bonkoungou, wearing his affection on his sleeve. Speaking of which, the phone rings and, prompted post call, he admits, "Yes, I am with someone special right now. Family plans for the future? Of course."

As for his work for and with the people, Bonkoungou told the AmNews, "I love politics--but good politics! I want the world to stop the violence. People are trying to act like they're gangsters when they are not gangsters.

"I want African people and Africans on the Continent to be united. We are brothers and sisters, and we should give each other as much love as we can--and until that happens, come and try some of my candied yams or macaroni and cheese or my peach cobbler!"

Tune into Bonkoungou's show on www.whcr.org Tuesday 2-4 p.m. or call (212) 491-4685.