Known around town simply as “that Israeli wine guy”, in the two years since landing in Nairobi, Noam Orr has been keen to add a few tricks to his bulging entrepreneurial portfolio. Most recently, when not hitting the pavement boosting sales for his line of Israeli olive oil, wine, spices and military boots, he has been involved in creating, producing and starring in a whole new TV show called “The Cellar” the purpose of which, he tells us, is to elevate the Kenyan mixology scene and turn Nairobi into a cocktail hotspot much like his home back in Tel Aviv. We caught up with Orr to find out more about the experience of making the show and where he plans to take the concept.
What brought you to Nairobi?
Kenya is the future, this is a place where everything is happening, it is a regional hub for business, nightlife, arts and culture. How could I miss out? The truth, though, is that it was my dad that first discovered what an investment potential there was here and it was him that convinced my sister and me to move here to play a part in this fast-paced economy. The way I see it, it took Artcaffe ten years to take off and now the same kind of change is happening in the space of two years.
Why do you think everything is speeding up now?
I think it is mainly down to social media and the fact that more and more Kenyans are traveling and bringing their knowledge from around the world home with them. We are so interconnected and that just makes people eager to be on a par with cities like London, Paris or Tel Aviv.
Why a TV show about cocktails?
Let’s face it, a large percentage of Kenyans love their booze. That said the drinking culture here is not about drinking responsibly. People binge drink, they don’t know the rules about mixing different types of alcohol and there is no passion for well-made cocktails. Compared to the food scene, the mixology scene has been slow to catch up so I felt I had a role to play in introducing Kenyans to the world of mixed drinks.
What qualifies you to star in a show like this?
Well to start with I was working with Brand Plus TV on a show about wine tasting. However after filming the first couple of episodes, the producers and I decided it was actually a bit boring, so given that I have ten years experience working as a bar man and food and beverage manager at some of Israel’s biggest hotels, we came up with the idea of a show celebrating cocktails.
Why do you think cocktails are not so popular in Kenya?
While in the rest of the world cocktails have become trendy across the board, they have generally maintained quite a girly image in this country with the preference often being for really sweet colourful drinks. In the end its all about balance and once a balance between dry, sweet and fruit is achieved, there is nothing girly about a really good cocktail!
What is the show’s format?
Giacinta Waimanga, the show’s producer and I, came up with a format that we feel is both instructive and fun. For every 45 minute episode we would select a specific location and feature three different cocktails. We would then talk about the cocktails a bit, do some demonstrations, interview some people about them and then do some evening shots of people at the chosen location knocking back the drinks and having fun.
What kind of logistic challenges did you face?
One of my recurring problems is sourcing the right fresh ingredients for my concoctions. Things like dragon fruit or a reliable source of fresh mint were surprisingly hard to find. That and glasses: somehow I could never find the glasses I wanted and ended up having to transport them back from Tel Aviv in my luggage.
Plans for the future?
The first season will be composed of 12 episodes. So far we have shot in Nairobi, Diani and Maasai Mara. Currently we are working on a plan to scale the show up to the whole of East Africa but that’s all to be confirmed.
Catch “The Cellar” on BrandPlus TV a free to air channel hosted on Signet. Content is also available on the Youtube BrandPlus TV channel.