Chef's Table in the Bush

Posted by permission of Rune Erikson

Every day I go to bed, I know that I have possible the best job and that I have make a difference in the life of someone. Maybe it is not a lot of people that we reach out to in the school, but the ones that we reach out to will have a better stand in life for the rest of their lives. And every day I wake up to new questions and new hunger for more knowledge and skills. I can't ask for a better motivation for me to run the Cooking School at Karen Blixen Camp in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

If you look at the chef environment in Europe, you will see a small similarity between that and Karen Blixen Hospitality School. We started the school as an offer to the local Maasai community and we have from the beginning been set on creating the best possible cooking school with the conditions and limits that we have. The school is only striving towards educating the best chefs in Kenya and it is the job description for all teachers employed in the school.

The most challenging part of running a professional cooking school in the Mara is the cultural differences regarding food and food culture. Citizens of Western countries and especially chefs are exposed to food on an everyday basis, but for our Maasai students it is the opposite. We feel a commitment to show the students the wide world of food before they graduate.

We are introducing a completely new lifestyle towards the job, where spare time and working time sometimes is the same, where passion is the motivation to excel even more and where discipline concerning tasks is the foundation of making it through a 14-hour shift.

The students and the school are during their course, trying to implement a way of advancing the Kenyan cuisine into the 21st Century, so tourist as well as Kenyans can enjoy real Kenyan dishes and fusions, where the best of Kenya is paired with foreign cuisines.

But to see the students come in, all green and new to professional cooking, and see them leave 18 months later as disciplined and professional chefs is the best salary that anyone can ask for.

We only take eight students per class, but it ensures that we can work fully on every student and make sure that they turn out to be skilled and wanted by the camps and lodges in the Mara. 21 chefs have been through our school and has made a success on their own.

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