By Jackson Biko – Yummy magazine magazine
You can call him a celebrity chef, if you want. That’s what all enthused journalists call him anyway. But I doubt – given his somewhat humbling predisposition – that he would exactly revel in that word “celebrity” even in light of his “successes”. (He doesn’t like to associate himself closely with that word either).
But all semantics aside, Kiran has done well for himself. There are the two distinguished fine dining premium restaurants – Sevens Seafood and Grill at ABC Place and Sevens Grill and Lounge in Village Market.
There is his well-acclaimed TV shows – Tales from the Bush Larder – running on Zuku, a culinary travel show where he travels the region and beyond, through hamlets and the African thicket, cooking with locals and using their ingredients.
In the show, he will eat anything from cow blood, mud crabs, guinea fowl eggs and grasshoppers. The show is such a hit that National Geographic bought it, the first local TV show to be exported to the international market. Doesn’t that sound like success?
How is your personality or temperament similar to the restaurants you own?
Well, I believe that if you are going to do something, you just have to do it properly. Like my restaurants, I pay attention to detail. I’m also an extremely impatient person, totally intolerant to others’ mistakes.
I enjoy pleasing people, I’m an entertainer. When I’m out with my friends having drinks, I’m always the loudest. I believe business is an extension of one’s personality.
During your Bush Larder series, what is the one thing you have learnt about our local cuisines?
First there is a fantastic variety of food people don’t know about in Kenya. I wouldn’t exactly say I learnt this, but it’s something I’ve always known, the problem was how to find it. I have had a greater appreciation of our local farmers and fishermen and what they have to do to make us eat.
It’s hard work and yet most people are unaware of this, or do not appreciate it. We are embarking on the third series, which will take me to SA, Zambia and Mozambique…if the war abates.
Chef, How does Kenyan cuisine distinguish itself from other African cuisines?
It doesn’t. But there are two distinctions here; the cuisine and the ingredients. In terms of ingredients, it’s world class. But we lack creativity to do much with it.
We should be more experimental, but to our credit, although Nairobi is capable of doing this, the rest of the country faces other financial challenges to engage in this.
Going by chef shows we watch on TV, most chefs are insufferable jackasses. Are you?
First, the stuff on TV is hyped. It’s all for entertainment so do not believe it. Nobody throws puns and epithets that much. However, being a chef is a high-pressure environment, what with demanding customers and little wiggling room.
This environment creates this type of person you are talking about; intolerant to mistakes, abrasive and abrupt. Sometimes you find yourself embracing it.
I don’t enjoy cracking the whip, but sometimes I have to. I always say if you find yourself throwing pans and abuses in the kitchen, something is fundamentally wrong.
Your three top rated restaurants in Nairobi, apart from yours, of course?
Hashmi’s at Nakumatt Ukay. Simple and excellent food. Pango at Fairview Hotel, excellent service. Furusato Restaurant, not much of ambience but food is always what it should be.
You were dying today. What’s the last meal you would ask for?
That’s easy. My mother makes an Indian dish called dal, with goat’s bones, rather the marrow from the bones served with rice or naan.