As Madzou puts it: “I threw myself—blood, sweat and tears—into the training program, because my very life depended on it.” Born into a blended family with 10 children, where Madzou fell second to last, his father died when he was only three years old. His mother sent him to live with his grandmother, where he was mistreated. From there, Mazdou had to navigate a series of orphanages, serious illness, and dropping out of secondary school when he was 16, only to end up in the streets.” He summed it up this way, choosing his words carefully: “I went through stuff that to this day makes me cry just thinking about it.” To escape the harsh law of the streets, he tried to enroll in the army, but that didn’t work. He then worked for three years in a security company before coming across the PDCE advertisement that would change his life.
By then Madzou was 23. There was no doubt he had a talent for culinary arts, but he was also prone to mood swings and aggressive behavior, which worried his trainers and prompted the PDCE to assign him a psychologist to help him better manage his emotions. For the six months he was in training, he would save up the bus fare and lunch money provided by the PDCE and invest it in buying his own materials. After an upskilling internship, he worked in several top restaurants in Brazzaville before hanging out his own shingle as 2M Service in 2017. But, as Madzou explained, that venture died a quick death. As he admits: “I just didn’t have the managerial capacity.” It would take him a year to sharpen his business management skills, thanks to training offered by PDCE and other agencies. In 2018 he transitioned 2M Service into an institute offering vocational training in catering.
Guts and dreams of greatness
His business was broken into several times, but Madzou always managed to bounce back. Through sheer talent and determination, he secured contracts and began to steer even more young people toward careers in the food and restaurant business. As fate would have it, with the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns came a fresh opportunity for him to make a name for himself: “When I had to shut down my business, I said to myself: ‘I must find something that would help me get back on track once things reopen.’” That was when Madzou came up with the idea of making wine from bissap (aka rosella, sorrel or hibiscus). “It took me 11 tries before I found the right formula.” And that was how Chevalier Madzou Moukassa, a table wine, came to be enjoyed by many and even served at official State functions in Brazzaville. The first 200 bottles flew off the shelves, fetching CFAF 2,500 ($ 4.16) a bottle wholesale and CFAF 3,000 ($ 4.99) a bottle retail.
Today, 2M Service is a well-established startup with five employees, including an accountant. Chef Madzou computerized his entire management system so he can monitor every financial transaction from his mobile phone in real time. The startup has a tally of over 350 young people trained in catering. Training costs CFAF 100,000 ($ 166.55) per person for six months. Training and catering services combined bring in almost CFAF 1 million ($ 1,665) a month, and that figure is likely to grow with the upcoming launch of a pastry department and production of a new vintage of his wine. As he noted, “I guess we haven’t made it big yet, but I do manage to feed my family and pay my staff.”
Chef Madzou Moukassa has his sights set high. His rationale is “I love to dream; it costs nothing to dream, and you can hit the jackpot if your dream comes true.” The culinary wunderkind is dead set on making 2M Service the temple of Congolese gastronomy and a standard bearer in Congo, Africa and the world—yet another of the challenges he has set himself and one he has every intention of taking up, if this tagline from his Facebook page is anything to go by: “I never give up.”