When Onami opened its doors back in 2009, it was like a breath of fresh air to the buzzing Nairobi metropolis. 3 years on, Onami has undergone a relaunch of their kitchen and more importantly to us, their menu. The redevelopment to public eyes is subtle. When it comes to food, there has been a focus on fresher, lighter and more colourful dishes inspired by the East but with a distinctive global flare. Behind the scenes, we’re told, it’s been an intense year of experimenting, planning and executing. Yummy jumped at the opportunity to quiz, Chef Avi, who has been spearheading the kitchen and menu re-launch.
How long have you been in the industry?
When did your relationship with food begin?
I was 19 when I first entered a restaurant kitchen and 21 when I was exposed to working in a ‘professional’ kitchen. I almost quit after a week but I was convinced to work over the weekend and then make up my mind. I was sold after that.
What happened those last 2 days that changed your mind?
The intensity, the buzz, the pressure and the creativity. It was a heady mix, which you have to be mentally and physically prepared for.
What do you do to relax?
When I’ve finished a shift, I’m exhausted. I normally get home and switch on the TV, put it on mute, and sit for about an hour in silence, to reflect on the day.
What 3 words would you use to describe the new menu at Onami?
Fresh, simple, and colourful
What has been your greatest challenge since working with Onami?
Getting my team to truly understand what I expect of them and deliver that day in and day out. It’s the same management challenge in every kitchen in every part of the world and when it comes to a restaurant, it impacts on consistency and quality.
What’s been your worst dining experience?
Well it’s not really a dining experience but I got incredibly sick after an overnight bus ride when I was travelling in India. I ate at a bus stop at 5am because I was starving. I don’t even remember what I ate but I’ll never forget how I felt afterwards!
What’s been your best dining experience?
As a farewell on my last night of work in New York, my boss at the restaurant took me restaurant hopping at 6 of the top restaurants in Manhattan. We’d go to a Japanese restaurant, order one plate of sashimi and then move on to the next place. It was like a culinary tour packed into one incredible night.
Being a good chef has everything to do with being experimental and spontaneous and on the other side of the coin, focused and consistent. But like all creativity, you have to make decisions based on what your heart tells you. Honestly, with food, it’s a never-ending story.