Winnie Wangui sat down with Sarova Stanley’s Executive Chef, Godfrey Ouda, who opens up about his journey, his take on the service industry today, catering to the former President and cooking for champions.
The recently concluded IAAF Championships 2017 saw one particular chef and his team whip up over 70,000 meals for over 4,500 guests who had visited the country. This was made possible by the fact that Chef Godfrey Ouda, Sarova Stanley’s Executive Chef work together with their nine other establishments.
Sarova Stanley Hotel, one of Nairobi’s oldest establishments is where we are meeting up with Chef Godfrey Ouda. He receives us with a warm smile; his aura exudes both humility and accomplishment. Hanging on the walls are portraits of him and the former president, His Excellency Mwai Kibaki at a cake cutting ceremony, along with accolades showcasing his achievements in the industry. We get to learn that Chef Godfrey has catered for the President during State functions and knows his diet. So what does the former president like to eat? “I can’t say!”
More than 25 years ago, Chef Godfrey started as a casual labourer at a restaurant. With no intentions of becoming a chef, he only developed a keen interest after curiously watching his supervisors churn out meals that were well plated and tasted delicious. “Back then, if you wanted to know a certain recipe, you had to be taught by your supervisor. Chef’s today have the internet as a resource of information, something which has played role in the evolution of the industry not only in Kenya but globally as well,” he says. The internet has seen the emergence of online cookbooks and YouTube videos showcasing cooking methods and plating techniques. He has grown over the years to become one of Kenya’s celebrated chefs, and has served at the Stanley for the last nine years. Designing the entire Sarova menu from scratch, he dubs this as one of his greatest achievements. To many, it’s not an easy fete but Chef Godfrey makes it sound like walk in the park. Something he is very proud of.
The family man, who prefers not to carry his work home, cooks once in awhile for his family.
“Food is what I do every day; a meal doesn’t need to be expertly prepared to be great. It only needs to be flavourful and palatable.” Chef Godfrey’s signature cooking style involves experimenting with different flavours and textures then blending them to develop something memorable. Like many other chefs, he attributes his accomplishments to the passion he has for his craft. He leaves his home every morning at the crack of dawn and retires back late in the night-sometimes he doesn’t even get the chance to see the sunlight. He goes to emphasize that to become an executive chef, one has to start from the ground and work their way up, putting in effort and hard work. “It is not a career for the faint hearted, it requires long hours”. He interacts with many students training to become chefs and it saddens him to see how quickly their drive dies once they experience the reality of the job. “A chef can only grow when given the liberty to develop his own creations and takes feedback from customers in good stride”
When it comes to meals, at the snap of a finger he can whip up an egg frittata or sweet potato fries for breakfast. Grilled ugali with creamed spinach or kale and beef stew for lunch or dinner would be his version of a typical Kenyan meal with a dash of creativity. So what would this Chef be up to if he wasn’t creating culinary delights? “You would probably have met me at a workshop fixing electrical devices. I like gadgets and things like that”.