Maria Bradford – Bridging Cultures through Sierra Leonean Cuisine

Maria Bradford’s culinary journey is a fascinating blend of her Sierra Leonean heritage, formal training at Leiths School of Food and Wine, and a relentless passion for bringing the diverse flavors of Sierra Leone to the world.

Nurturing a Culinary Identity

Maria’s culinary odyssey commenced in the vibrant landscapes of Sierra Leone, where her childhood experiences and exposure to traditional dishes laid the foundation for her future culinary endeavors. In Sierra Leone, she developed a deep connection with the vibrant and diverse local cuisine.

“I  was born and raised in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.  I have  many  fond childhood memories. Mainly to do with my fascination for age-old African recipes. Discovering fresh,  local,  flavoursome ingredients. And cooking for all my family  and friends. My enduring love for the taste of home has taken me to this point. I have turned my life-long passion of food into a fulfilling business – bringing the reinvention of African dishes to a broader audience. This is my calling, and I love it!” – Maria Bradford

Crafting Culinary Expertise

Venturing to the United Kingdom, Maria embarked on a formal culinary education at Leiths School of Food and Wine, Leiths School of Food and Wine, an award-winning culinary institution that is considered one of the best cookery schools in the world. The school’s comprehensive programs equipped her with the skills and knowledge needed to refine her culinary techniques and pursue her passion for cooking professionally, however Maria is quite clear that in her words “I learnt how to cook in Sierra Leone”

A Cultural Ambassador of Sierra Leonean Cuisine

Driven by a deep love for her cultural roots, Maria founded Shwen Shwen, a culinary platform dedicated to showcasing the rich and diverse cuisine of Sierra Leone. Shwen Shwen not only introduces people to the authentic tastes of Sierra Leone but also acts as a cultural bridge connecting diverse culinary traditions by offering dining, catering, an online store and Sweet Salone: Recipes from the Heart of Sierra Leone, which presents delectable original recipes and various aspects of Sierra Leonean food history.

Recognizing Culinary Prowess

Maria has received numerous accolades. National Geographic has acknowledged her culinary prowess, featuring her for her substantive role in sharing the distinct tastes of Sierra Leonean food. Foodism magazine celebrated Maria’s insatiable passion for food, highlighting her dedication to exploring and expanding the boundaries of Sierra Leonean  cuisine.  And The Independent commended her efforts to           introduce the diverse and flavorsome dishes of Sierra Leone to a broader audience, contributing to the cultural tapestry of London.

This and the other recognition Maria has received has further solidified her status as a global advocate for preserving and sharing the culinary heritage of Sierra Leone. This steadfast commitment to authenticity and innovation has positioned her as a respected figure in the      culinary landscape.

Creating a Culinary Legacy

Maria is Salone’s ambassador of food, heritage and culture. Through her culinary placemaking strategy, her vision is that Freetown, Sierra Leone could become a Culinary Capital. Until then she will continue to work with all stakeholders to nudge Sierra Leone up the food hierarchy and to ensure Sierra Leone has its place on the world food map.

As a contributor to Great British Chefs, Maria continues to share her expertise in the United Kingdom and globally, further solidifying her reputation as a culinary innovator. Her story is a captivating narrative of a chef who, fueled by her Sierra Leonean heritage and unyielding passion, has become a global advocate for the diverse and authentic flavors of Sierra Leonean cuisine.

Maria’s journey from Sierra Leone to becoming a culinary ambassador demonstrates the power of food to connect people across cultures. For more information, visit


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