“L’Abidjanaise” in N’Djamena: The Story of Mama Jeanne

In the streets of Moursal, one of N’Djamena’s popular districts, stands “ L'Abidjanaise.” For over a decade, the establishment has been a reference for West African food lovers in the Chadian capital. Leading the iconic institution is “Mama Jeanne,” a 55-year-old Ivorian chef.  


The story of “ L'Abidjanaise ” is a story of migration, but also one of love and perseverance.  

Jeanne Vao can still remember when she arrived in Chad for the first time in 1990. “We had been on the road for five days and on the sixth day we entered Chad,” she recalls, smiling.  

In Côte d'Ivoire, she worked for a local fruit company. That is where she met the man who would become her husband, a Chadian who had migrated to her home country for work. After five years together in Daloa, in western Côte d'Ivoire, they decided to move to Chad – the place, today, she calls home. 


Integration into Chadian culture and society was not easy at first. The 1990s were a turning point in the political history of the country, one of the poorest in the world.  

“I didn't like the environment we were in,” Mama Jeanne says. “I remember we first settled in Moursal which was just a small town back then.” 

At the time, there weren’t many Ivorians in Chad and most of the time, Mama Jeanne felt “out of place.” But she did not give up.  

Armed with courage and hope, she decided to break into Chadian society the only way she knew how: using food.  

“I knew how to cook well so I started doing small jobs here and there. And it’s thanks to the savings from those jobs that I was able to open this restaurant,” she says proudly.  

“Today I even know how to cook the tan koul which is one of my favorite Chadian dishes!” 

Despite the difficulties she encountered during her early years, Mama Jeanne continues to thrive in her adopted country. According to her, one must always keep a positive spirit because whatever the difficulties, experiences in countries cannot be compared.  

“Each country has its own image and its history,” she says. Côte d'Ivoire started a long time ago, so it’s normal that some things seem more advanced. I believe Chad is also moving forward.” 

Today, “L'Abidjanaise” welcomes a varied clientele which includes Chadians but also the growing number of expatriates settled in N'Djamena and wishing to discover, or rediscover for some, West Africa’s culinary richness.  

We must always keep a positive spirit because whatever the difficulties, experiences in countries cannot be compared.