Meet Sharena Smith: The Woman Making Sure The Best New Restaurant In New Orleans Remains Senegalese

by Gee NY

In the heart of New Orleans, Dakar NOLA, a Senegalese restaurant, unfurls its inspiring culinary narrative to the world.

Sous chef, Sharena Smith, recently met up with food and entertaining magazine Bon Appétit, orchestrating a symphony of bold flavors and fresh seafood in a short documentary.

Amid the hustle of the bustling kitchen, Sharena navigates the meticulous preparations, embodying the essence of Dakar’s pescatarian menu.

From the morning rituals of receiving fresh, locally sourced ingredients to the intricate process of breaking down red snapper for the day’s creations, Sharena unveils her journey, the dedication and precision required to bring Dakar’s distinctive Senegalese fusion cuisine to life.

The day unfolds with Sharena overseeing the unique dining experience Dakar offers — 30 seats, one nightly seating, and a seven-course Senegalese tasting menu.

As she deftly handles the morning preparations, from jollof rice to ataya tea, she embodies the fusion of Senegalese and New Orleans culinary influences. The restaurant’s commitment to sourcing locally is evident, with fresh seafood and produce making their way into signature dishes, such as the sautéed oysters, red snapper, and eggplant.

Sharena’s role extends beyond the kitchen, embracing Senegalese culture through the ataya tea — a refreshing blend with hints of ginger and jasmine.

As the day progresses, Sharena’s expertise shines as she tackles the demanding task of fish butchery, a skill she honed under Chef Serigne Mbaye’s guidance.

The creation of essential elements like fish stock, the base for various sauces, underscores the meticulous planning and time management required to meet the evening’s challenges.

Family mealtime becomes a brief respite, a moment for the culinary team to recharge before the anticipated service. Sharena’s leadership, coupled with Chef Serigne’s guidance, exemplifies the collaborative spirit that defines Dakar NOLA — a culinary haven blending tradition, innovation, and a dash of spice.

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