Food & Drinks

A young chef on the rise


Fried potatoes and pork ribs plate. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK



  • The business idea began back in 2018 while in college.
  • “I was connected by my school to sit in for a permanent chef who was away on leave.”
  • Besides cooking for office workers, she also whips up dishes for parties.

After working as a personal chef for a government advisor for three months, Rose Otieno, 23, is bringing her love for cooking to life.

“I was connected by my school to sit in for a permanent chef who was away on leave,” she says.

“It was an amazing experience and now I am moving my business from online. Very soon I will be opening my restaurant that will mainly focus on Swahili dishes.”

The short-lived gig is pushing the hospitality management graduate from Kibondeni College in Nairobi, to search for space along Nairobi’s Waiyaki Way, targeting the growing urban market.

The business idea began back in 2018 while in college. One of her tutors requested her to help out in various events such as weddings and parties and in return paid some cash which she used as pocket money.

Her market

She says she has already spotted a market.

“I am working to open my eatery that will accommodate walk-ins, takeaways, and online orders. At the moment, I have a range of office clients that I supply food to in Nairobi’s Westlands. All my clients are a result of referrals,” she says.

Besides cooking for office workers, she also whips up dishes for parties.

“Cooking is what pays my bills. It has granted me opportunities that I never thought one day I will have,” she adds.

She has been relying on online orders for her Swahili foods such as biryani, pilau, chicken biryani, and Swahili bhajia which she sells at Sh450, Sh350, Sh550 and Sh220 respectively.

“I love Swahili dishes because of the spices. A good Swahili dish is made from raw spices that you use a mortar and pestle to grind, not the processed ones on supermarket shelves,” she says.

“However, that doesn’t mean I am not good at cooking other cuisines such as Mexican and French,’’ she adds.

She has also been selling barbecue pork ribs that she says she prefers baking to boil.

The pork ribs are marinated with dry spices of paprika, garam masala, onion powder, garlic powder and liquid smoke. She starts by removing the silverskin from the pork for absorption of ingredients and ease in chewing. Then she rubs the liquid smoke and sprinkles the ingredients.

She then wraps the ribs in aluminium foil and bakes them in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for two and half hours.

“I prefer using an oven because of the accurate temperature required to bake the pork. Marinating gives my pork that extra flavour,” Ms Otieno says.

“You can also boil your pork ribs in salty water than when cooked, you apply your barbecue sauce. This method doesn’t allow you to marinate the pork.”

The pork ribs can be served with French fries, ugali and coleslaw.

She buys a kilogramme of the ribs which can serve four or five people at Sh2,300 and sell a plate at Sh1,250. The plate has four chops and a side dish of either chips or ugali and coleslaw.

Her favourite meal to prepare is Biryani.

“I enjoy cooking it because of how colourful the finished product looks and the raw spices used such as unripe paw paw for the Rojo to thicken the biryani stew.”

But just like many other cooks, Ms Otieno started from the mother’s kitchen at a young age.

“I started cooking at a tender age. I was always with my mum in the kitchen and she taught me a lot.’’

Ms Otieno draws her inspiration from clients and desire to polish her art, quoting renowned Chef Wolfgang Puck, ‘cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colours, there are only so many flavours— it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.’

Bbq pork ribs recipe

Step 1: Preparing dry ingredients to marinate the pork

a) Marination Ingredients · 1tsp of paprika · 1tsp of garam masala · 1tsp of onion powder · 1tsp of garlic powder · 2tsp of liquid smoke b) Mix the above dry ingredients in a bowl apart from the liquid smoke.

Step 2: Marinating and baking the pork

a) Procedure · Start by removing the membrane (top layer of the meat usually white in colour) from the pork for ease of chewing and absorption of the ingredients. · Wash the pork and then dry it using a paper towel on both sides. · Then you rub in your 2tbsp of liquid smoke on both sides of the pork ribs, then sprinkle dry ingredients on both sides. · Wrap your ribs in aluminium foil and bake it in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 2hrs 30min. · After the time has elapsed, remove the pork ribs from the oven and remove the foil.

Step 3: Applying barbecue sauce

a) Homemade barbecue sauce ingredients · 2tbsp of ketchup · 1tbsp of honey · 1tsp of vinegar · 1tsp of black pepper

b) Procedure · Mix the above ingredients in a bowl to give you a sweet and sour taste. · Apply the barbecue sauce on the baked pork ribs. As you are applying the barbecue sauce to the pork, pre-heat your oven to 120°C · Return the pork ribs to the oven for an additional 10 to 15 min.

Once done, remove your barbecue pork ribs and you can serve it with chips or ugali and a side dish of coleslaw or kachumbari.

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