Two antelopes graze near a watering hole. A grey crowned crane walks on the green grass, as we wait for our interview with Chef Renee. We are seated at the Big Five Restaurant at Ole Sereni, overlooking the Nairobi National Park in all its green glory.
Chef Renee Musee Mbuvi arrives right on time, bedecked in a long chef’s hat and a smile to match. He is the junior sous-chef at the hotel and has more than two decades of cooking under his belt.
“Cooking is in my genes, I think,” he explains with a chuckle. “My mother is a teacher and the main chef for her Women’s Guild. My elder and younger sisters are both chefs. I think she inspired the love for food in us at a very young age. It was inevitable that I would become a chef,” he adds.
Renee’s love for food would see him join NYS immediately after high school, where he did a catering course. He would join the hotel industry as a waiter at Safari Park Hotel and would sweat and learn his way up. He later moved to Boma Hotel and then to Mombasa. He has studied Japanese and international cuisines, and believes it is important to specialise in at least two culinary styles as a chef.
“In order to be able to head a kitchen competently, one should be a master of several culinary styles so that they can be able to guide and manage their subordinates to prepare great dishes in whatever style the client may want. Moreover, it would be impossible to head a kitchen with knowledge of just one style of cooking,” he elaborates.
He has been in the Ole Sereni steakhouse for the last five years and is especially fond of grilling. He joined as a banquet chef de partie. He later moved to the à la carte kitchen where he was in charge of grilling meats, and then to the steakhouse where he is now the junior sous-chef.
As to what would make a great chef, Renee tells us about the importance of passion and the need to listen to what clients want, as well as to the emerging culinary trends.
“You need to be passionate about what you do. This makes it easier to handle any challenges you may encounter. It is also important to remain abreast of culinary trends. For instance, people are now gravitating towards healthy eats,” he expounds.
Renee then offers to show us how to prepare the Ole Health Kick Salad, a healthy eat that is available on the à la carte menu. He is kind enough to share the recipe with us so that we can give it a go at home. You should try it too; the recipe or the salad at the Big Five Restaurant, or both, just so you can judge your culinary skills. Either way, happy eating!
2 boiled then halved quail eggs
A mixture of kale, lettuce and spinach
A few sweet potato wedges that have been boiled then fried in butter
Olive oil and lemon zest for dressing
Pour some dressing on to the kale, lettuce and spinach combination and mix well.
Add the pomegranate, chia and pumpkin seeds and mix well again.
Put four dollops of avocado mash, on the salad bowl, to match the four cardinal points.
Place the quail egg halves on the mash.
Place the sweet potato wedges on the salad to add colour.
Add some more dressing and serve.