Wayne Walkshaw is not your typical chef. The new chef at Chophouse restaurant, Radisson Blu was once in the army as a waiter.
He started cooking with no training from culinary school, yet is one of Africa’s most preferred chefs. Later he got a diploma in culinary.
With tattoos of his children’s faces on his hands, family screams importance to him. But so does flavours and onions and garlic.
When BDLife asked him what ingredients he cannot live without?
“I can’t tell you how often people say, ‘Oh, I just don’t like garlic.’ I love garlic and onions,” he says.
The chef has worked in different hotels in South Africa, and the UK and brings to Kenya a touch of different cultures across the continent.
“My philosophy is my food doesn’t have to be complicated for it to be good, it’s all about the flavours, it’s seasoning. For me is more of the customers,” says the 48-year-old.
So how does Chef Wayne create his dishes and food presentations?
“I do a lot of research. From the research, I build on my recipes, and how the food will be presented. I like looking at pictures and thinking maybe I could exchange this item with something else,” he says.
As Chophouse restaurant reopens after two years of closure and after years of elevating the dining experience in Kenya by serving food akin to an experimental meal in a chemistry lab, yet very tasty and elegantly presented, Chef Wayne is betting on his team to entice new and old diners.
“I have got a good team, I have a guy who is into molecular gastronomy… I want to take my flavours and combine them with my team’s knowledge,” he says.
However, he adds that as much as he has a good team in his kitchen, he is a hands-on chef.
“At the beginning of your career, you always want to do everything by yourself but as you go grow, you realise you can’t do it all alone. I always tell people to share their knowledge, nobody is going to take your job. Sharing work makes it easy, everyone is developing one another and no one wants to stay in one place for more than 10 years,” Chef Wayne says.
Chophouse’s standards, he says, had been set by the previous executive chef Wissem Abdellatif, who introduced super-aged steak to Kenyans.
“We just want to build on that and change things to today’s style of cooking. We’ll make the food interesting,” says Chef Wayne.
At a tasting ahead of the reopening, Chef Wayne and his team prepared scallops served in black salt, brandy, butternut and mascarpone puree, parma ham crisp, and micro leaves.
There was also the favourite Molo lamb with eggplant caviar, black olive emulsion, soubise foam, enoki mushrooms, blackberry, and red wine reduction, dark chocolate and chilli crust.
New jobs come with worries. Does he have any?
“I used to worry quite a lot and I realised it doesn’t help. I like to relax more,” he says.
With a heart for fulfilling other people’s culinary desires, his taste in food is much different from what he makes.
“My favourite food is nyama choma, beef, and pasta,” he says.
The meals he is proud of making are nice, crispy rose duck with roasted garlic mesh, whisky marmalade sauce, some toasted walnuts, and chicken jerky.
“It’s plain and simple but I promise you it’s tasty,” he says.
Being a top chef is almost akin to being a celebrity, but the job is impossibly demanding. What makes him stand out?
“I don’t think people know what it takes to put out food that they get. But it’s all about consistency,” he says.
Does he harbour a desire to one day own his restaurant? And what kind would it be?
After opening up multiple restaurants and failing, he has decided he is not an entrepreneur but a chef.
“I have opened my restaurants and they failed terribly. I enjoy what I do, at this stage I’m not planning to open any other. People have a false perception that by owning a restaurant, you make so much money,” he says.