Senegal's star food blogger: Self-taught and spurred on by love
A story of love, internet and plenty of chocolate cake, Karelle Vignon-Vullierme talks about her journey of garnering over 50,000 social media followers for her food blog
Karelle Vignon-Vullierme is a food blogger and has almost 40,000 Facebook followers and 15,000 on Instagram, mostly from France and francophone Africa for her skill.
Cooking rarely featured in her life, quite surprising for a food blogger. She never bothered to learn how to cook, she told media reporters.
A former journalist and now a full time food blogger, she is based in Dakar since 2012.
Olivier Vullierme, Karelle's Husband
After falling in love with Olivier Vullierme, a Franco-Senegalese engineer, and following him to Dakar, she began studying French-language cooking websites hoping to impress him. What started out as a gesture of affection began to change her life, as she experimented with savoury dishes for him, and plenty of cakes for herself.
Dishes cooked at home for her husband were carefully photographed and posted on Facebook, leading to inquiring emails from friends.
All were quick and simple but at times offered unusual combinations that are something of a trademark.
Vullierme describes himself as "very proud" of his wife but says few realise the enormous amount of time spent creating recipes, taking photos and videos, and responding individually to fans -- a must in the social media age.
Karelle's Plan: Eating Healthy
Vignon-Vullierme said her plan was never to "teach people how to cook", but simply how to eat properly with inexpensive ingredients widely available. She can now make her mother proud by throwing together an amiwo, a dish from Benin made with cornflour and chicken.
But, she says, her target are young city-dwellers, who "no longer have the time to spend three or four hours in the kitchen".
A Story of Love, Internet and Chocolate Cake.
"Les Gourmandises de Karelle" (Karelle's Treats), an ever-expanding social media and blog operation has become her full-time job now.
She set up the blog in late 2013, "firstly so that they would stop sending me messages saying 'how did you do that?'," she said
Sponsorship from supermarket chains and other regional brands also appear on her social media feeds, book-ending sped-up videos of her recipes, and such partnerships have proved profitable, she says.
With an average 120,000 visitors a month for the blog, she now has her own app so people can easily browse her creations, ranging from chocolate-banana spring rolls to a plantain gratin.