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KAMUGISHA: My dream was to be a lawyer, but food called

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By JEFFERSON RUMANYIKA
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Paul Kamugisha was born and raised in Kigali, Rwanda. As a child, he dreamt of being a lawyer but a turn of events found him in the hospitality industry.

After completing his A-Levels, Kamugisha’s got a job as a waiter at a restaurant. He later moved to the bar section.

It just happened that the government of Rwanda was offering scholarships to students to study tourism-related courses to boost tourism service in the country, and Kamugusha’s boss saw his potential in the industry and pushed him to apply.

He got the sponsorship and was enrolled at the Kenya Utalii College in Nairobi for an undergraduate diploma course in food production. He later studied for undergraduate diploma in culinary arts from the Orton School of Culinary Art and Hotel Management in Singapore and added a bachelor’s degree in Leisure & Tourism Management from University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies in Kigali.

As the executive chef at Ubumwe Grande Hotel — one of the premier four-star hotels in Rwanda — Kamugisha works 12 hours a day.

He is on a mission to use his experience and knowledge to improve the quality of food and customer service in the country and put Rwanda on the world’s gastronomy map.

Kamugusha has worked in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, and Khartoum in a career spanning over 13 years. He credits his mentors in the best five-star kitchens in the region.

His culinary repertoire and kitchen management flourished during his stint under Eshton Muthai, then executive chef at the Kampala Serena, where he developed and refined his culinary techniques.

Kamugusha believes that the first year as a commis chef brought everything together for him: How to focus on one or two ingredients in a dish and make them shine, how to keep things simple and interesting and most important, how to work with the seasons and different cultures.

Before joining Ubumwe Grande hotel as its executive chef, he worked at the Utalii Hotel, Nairobi Serena Hotel, Kigali Serena Hotel, Kampala Serena Hotel, in Dar es Salaam and even had a stint at the United Nations. Before Ubumwe Grande he was at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre, Kigali.

His affinity for traditional recipes has inspired him to create authentic dishes using local products, to create flavours to turn East African dishes into culinary delights.

Kamugisha is the only Rwandan executive chef of a major hotel chain in the country.
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How did you get started in the industry and what made you realise you wanted to work in the food sector?

I happen to have been working at a bar and restaurant as a waiter when the hospitality industry in Rwanda was still in its infancy. My boss believed that I was gifted in the culinary art and encouraged me to apply for a government-sponsored hospitality scholarship at the Kenya Utalii College in Nairobi. I was the first to be selected and as they say the rest is history. I must however add that I grew up wanting to be a lawyer, so I was just in the right place at the right time.

Who is the person you admire the most in the food industry?

In the region, I admire Eshton Muthai the executive chef at the Kampala Serena. He taught me a lot on kitchen management. Internationally, I admire the French chef Paul Bocuse and the English chef Marco Pierre White who was the youngest chef to be awarded three Michelin Stars.

What is the best thing about being a chef?

It is when my clients are happy with my food. Between a happy client and more money, I would pick the former. Being a chef is very fulfilling and unlike any other career, you just can’t get out of college and become a chef. You have to start out as a commis chef and work your way up.

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How would you describe your food?

Healthy and authentic. I do not like to copy and paste recipes unless it is a signature dish, and which I will still strive to add my personal touch. As an executive chef I am also very eclectic. Being a four-star means we have regular international clientele. So, I combine different types of techniques from different types of international and local cuisines.

What are the essential cook books on your shelf?

The second edition of On Cooking of Culinary Fundamentals by Sarah R.Labensky, the fourth edition of The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg and Techniques of Healthy Cooking by L. Timothy Ryan.

What is the one ingredient/recipe that you struggled to master? How did you overcome that struggle?

As a student at the Utalii College, I struggled to make the Bavarian cream dessert. My major challenge was in unmoulding and serving. It collapsed at every attempt. It was humiliating and so I had to consult my supervisor who directed me to the library where I got the book Professional Pastry Chef which helped me master it and I use the same book to this day.

Colour. I love mixing colours in different dishes to create flavours. I approach it like a graphic artist. I am also inspired by sheer unadulterated drive for excellence to be a world class chef and also cost control as an executive chef.

How do you unwind after work?

By going to the gym. On my off days which happens to be on the weekends, I enjoy sparkling wine and nyama choma.

What is the most exciting food item you have worked on recently?

A breakfast snack called a kaimati. It is like the Kenyan kaimati but with a distinct twist. I have also introduced new salads at our Fiesta Restaurant and a distinct Rwandese goat stew at our Rooftop Restaurant.

What can you so far call the lowest point of your career?

It certainly has to be when I was in college and I couldn’t get any recipes right. I got so disappointed in myself that I packed my bags ready to quit. When I got to the college gate, the security men stopped me from leaving and I was brought back to my supervisor who encouraged me to be patient and said she almost quit too in her first semester in culinary school. I resolved to stay in college at all cost.

What was your biggest kitchen disaster?

I think this happened in June of 2015 when I worked at the Serena in Dar es Salaam. We had a wedding dinner for 500 guests and we ran out of food after only serving 270 people. To make it worse, the meat was too frozen to be cooked and we ended up serving a non-meat meal and also had to get extra staff to help us serve.

What is your favourite kitchen scar?

During one of the chef competitions at the beginning of my career, I chopped off half of my ring finger. But we won.

What is your guilty pleasure snack while watching your guilty pleasure show?

I love eating beef liver brochettes while watching football.

What is your go-to food after a long day?

A goat leg nyama choma with spinach.

What food are you craving the most right now?

I am craving a beef steak with spinach.

Is there food that you are secretly obsessed with having at home?

What is the most memorable meal you have served?

It was a Valentine menu in 2016 while I worked at the Kigali Serena Hotel. My boss was on leave and I finally had the opportunity to create a menu I had been planning for four years. It was very detailed from the starters to the desserts and the terminology used on the menu. It was such a hit with the Belgian guests who were in attendance.

If you could cook for and dine with anyone in the world, who would it be and what would you make?

I would love to cook my signature Rwandan mutton stew for Gordon Ramsay. Just to show him that Africans can be inventive and innovative in the kitchen too.

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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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