How long have you been in the restaurant industry?
24 years, which is over half my life (Laughs).
When did your relationship with food begin?
I grew up in a typical Kenyan family where the perception was that cooking was only for women.
One of my sisters was and still is a great cook. My grandfather was very particular about his food and how it was prepared… So I learnt from an early age that there is a difference in food and in allowing oneself to be spoilt by GOOD food.
The method for preparation, consideration and respect for food is very important to the final outcome.
If you were to create an equation for good food what would it be?
Care in preparation (impacts textures and flavours) + the freshest ingredients + most of all passion (a love for what you do and create is vital). I would rather starve than have something that was substandard and I expect that patrons of our establishments would have the same ethos.
In fact, the world famous Chaine des Rotisseurs organization insists that its members never have any salt or pepper on the table, which really challenges the chef. Everything must be perfectly seasoned before it’s plated.
What inspires your cooking?
French cuisine is considered as the ‘mother’ of continental cuisine but I am certainly moving towards simple cooking. Sourcing and using local indigenous ingredients and creating a sort of fusion – it’s something that I am exploring. For example, lacing sauces or consommés with lavender or aloe vera. The new Tamarind menu features a prawn and amaranth
(terere seed) soup.
So what can we look forward to in the future when it comes to Tamarind and Joseph Gacheru?
One of my key passions is training youth. At Tamarind Group, we have a rigorous apprentice programme which runs for 18 months. We take in approximately 16 out of hundreds of applicants [Gacheru mentions that they will only see applicants who
have gone to college, which is a sign of their commitment]. There is a high turnover no doubt but we are left with a handful of trainees that are prepared mentally and emotionally to commit themselves to this career.
Tamarind has become a training ground for the industry but at the end of the day, it is for the greater good. That is something that I feel very passionate about.