Ida Cham, born in 1964, studied Hotel Tourism & Catering Management at West London College from 1987 to 1989
Upon returning to The Gambia, she worked at Senegambia Beach Hotel as the manager of Guest Relations and Sales Marketing respectively. In 2005, she resigned from a more challenging job as the General Manager of Mandina Eco Lodge Makasutu but left in 2008 to start her own business and thus the Yabouy Home Cooking School was born.
Yabouy was named after her mother (yabouy) who contributed a lot to her success. With regards to her mother, Ida says ‘she was a source of inspiration since she started from zero, selling peanut butter at Albert Market whilst struggling to raise five daughters but ended up selling gold and silver. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 84- may her soul rest in perfect peace’
Yabouy Cooking School aims to introduce something new to the tourism industry.
‘I preserve my culture by promoting sustainable tourism. Guests come to my house, put on African attire, we go to the market together, cook together and exchange cultural values. I am working with all the major tour operators in the Gambia’
Listed as one of the top ten tours in the Gambia by Gambia Experience, featured twice by Dailymail UK, The Times, Belfast Telegraph, SN Brussels in-flight magazines and more, Yabouy Cooking School continues its rise to the top.
We had a chance to ask Ida a few questions about Yabouy:
How did the idea for Yabouy Cooking School occur to you? What set the wheels in motion so to speak?
I used to invite some of my European friends to my house and they would always say that it made their holiday! I kept that in mind and in 2008 I decided to open Yabouy- I was lucky that Thomas Cook started selling me the same year.
What would you say is the most fulfilling aspect of running Yabouy?
I truly enjoy what I am doing because I love my culture and because of that I have people from all over the world that come to me. I do not take many people because I enjoy and do not want to lose that personal touch.
You speak about promoting sustainable tourism, in which ways, besides supporting the local market do you feel you do so?
Everything I do is local and supports livelihoods in the Gambia. I invite local people to make peanut butter and invite a kora player to name a few. They are paid for their services and it contributes to the exchange of cultural values which I promote.
Tell us more about the Yabouy charity
Yabouy charity was set up in December 2013. I feel that in anything you do, it’s proper to give back to the community (especially the less fortunate) I currently support a few female farmers, giving them loans which they pay back without interest. My aim is for them to have boreholes and eventually become self-sufficient. Don’t feel that I am gender biased but I just see how hard working Gambian women are! (laugh)
How do you cater to different levels of cooking skills in your classes?
Catering to all levels is not difficult since I have been dealing with Europeans for over 25 years now so I know what they want. Thank you for having me and special thanks also to my three boys which I have been blessed with!