Beautiful Kitchen Chaos

14 January 2020 | Inside Angama |

Reading Time: 5 minutes

From evading wild animals on his morning commute, to serving up sizzling steaks grilled to perfect at Forest BBQ, this is a day in the life of Elias, also known as Chef Chimichurri or Nanka – take your pick

I wake up very early in the morning – usually it’s still dark outside. After checking the Angama WhatsApp group to find out if there were any wild animal sightings in camp during the night, I make my way safely to the guest kitchen.

At this early hour, the kitchen is quiet, calm and peaceful – very different from the commotion and energy during the course of the day. I prepare myself for the day ahead: today, it’s 12 breakfast picnics and 17 lunch picnics. The baker is quietly preparing the fresh bread rolls and morning muffins. The picnic chef gets everything organised and I lend a hand as his sous chef. Together, we get the picnics done by 5:30am, in time for the guides to pack them for their morning safaris.

Elias preparing breakfast

Next, I move on to breakfast preparations. As a team, we do a lot of the work the night before, ensuring the fruit is cut and the juices are made, ready for the next day. But there are always some breakfast items that can only be done “to order” and all the ingredients must be prepped and ready.

The first breakfast orders come in and suddenly the kitchen comes to life. Several colleagues join me and by 6:30am the kitchen is buzzing. And just as suddenly the morning rush is over and it is time for lunch prep, BBQ prep and special requests.  Each team member plays an important role in ensuring the day runs smoothly: menus printed and double-checked, stock takes of the pantry and cold room, and even the occasional guest cooking lesson occurring throughout the busy morning. All the while, hot rolls are baking in the oven for lunch and the shamba keepers arrive with a fresh delivery of lettuces, herbs and other produce from our lovely garden.

Kitchen commotion

The pace continues into the late afternoon. Orders keep coming, and the harmony between the butlers and the chefs is tested with each service. We have to keep each other on our toes. It can be chaotic, but always a beautiful chaos; organisation amidst all the commotion.

By 3pm, I usually have a few hours before it’s time to report back for the dinner shift.  During this time, I clean my room, do some laundry, rest and try to sneak in a quick run and shower. And sometimes, it is just nice to sit and socialise and shoot the breeze. Been with the lodge since the very beginning, and even before then as a chef at the builders’ camp, my colleagues have become my family. They jokingly call me Chimichurri after our steak seasoning at Forest BBQ. It is because I had no idea what chimichurri was when I first started and found the word outright silly!

Elias and Joseph

Well rested and refreshed, I head back to the kitchen around 5:30pm and load up the truck for the Forest BBQ, double-check we have all we need and head out to the site.  The utility team are lighting the grills when we arrive, and we organise the starter courses while the grills get nice and hot and ready for service. The lanterns are all lit and the guests start arriving just when the sun dips below the horizon. Tonight, my station is at the grill with the head chef, my favourite. By headlamp and timers, we perfect the meat orders as they come in, and send them off on sizzling plates to the guest after topping them off with grilled vegetables and our signature rocket oil. The hyenas call as the night comes to a close. We pack up the leftovers and tuck them safely away (after enjoying our share, of course).

Chef Elias

By 10pm, I wind down, maybe a call to home or a chat with a friend. By 11pm, I settle into bed, fulfilled with the success of happy guests and fun laughs with my colleagues throughout the day.

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