The Black Chef dreams big

HARARE - Zimbabwe's celebrity chef, Kudakwashe Makoni, is hoping to turn his legendary recipes and ambition into a money-making business.

The 36-year-old recipe maker, popularly known as The Black Chef, is currently setting up a preserves production business as well as a microwave/TV Dinner gourmet line.

But how did it all start for the United States of America-educated chef?

“I have been avidly passionate about cooking since I was 15,” he said, adding that his earliest culinary memories go back to when he was six years when his late mom would make him help out with Saturday breakfast.

“She was so particular about how I cut the bread and made the softest scrambled eggs ever. All this later on allowed me to develop a passion for cooking, which my cousin Rufaro also had… so we would experiment baking cupcakes with different pudding flavours.

“We baked for two weeks straight till my aunt started complaining about her electricity bill. I have been blessed to have an entire family of foodies and chefs in their own right,” he said.

Makoni noted that opportunities came his way shortly after leaving Zimbabwe having studied and completed degrees in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and political science.

“I later went on to pursue a culinary arts management degree with the Culinary Institute of America (Greystone Campus in St Helena, California). I recently got my MBA in corporate finance from the University of Gloucestershire last year,” he said.

Makoni said he was inspired to establish his own brand after his culinary journey took him to areas such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and more recently Ghana.

“I have a flair for fusion cuisine and love to add that to ‘boring’ menu items, so instead of just having barbeque glazed ribs you will have orange and black pepper glazed ribs. Most of what I do is classic French or Italian, with the fusion of American, African, Mexican, Arabic and Asian cuisines,” he said.

The Black Chef added that his ultimate desire is to have a line of boutique restaurants offering everything and anything from casual diner food to nine-course fine dining meals.

“I would certainly love to travel more and explore the different cuisines of the world and hopefully in the next six months I will be able to tour Europe – France, Spain, Italy and England – and a trip to the Far East – Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

“I would also love to open a ‘Kitchen Hub’ in Harare with test kitchens, office space, a restaurant and state of the art chefs school, plans are already underway for that,” he added.

Last week, Makoni unveiled four delicious menus at Ora Restaurant in the plush suburb of Borrowdale.

The first menu was the Orange and Black Pepper Beef Ribs served with cheesy sadza and grilled granny smith apples.

“Basically because I love fusion cuisine this dish has hits of Chinese/Asian flavour tones because of the orange and pepper, the African element comes out in the sadza which has been done like its sister polenta is cooked by Italians,” he said.

The second menu, Roast Butternut, Chickpea, Pomegranate and Candied Pecan Nut Salad drizzled with a balsamic yogurt dressing, proved very popular with dinners.

Makoni said the dish was inspired by his stay in the Middle East and he had to throw in the element of California cuisine which is what some would call ‘farm to table’.

“There are elements of earthy spices from the cumin in the chickpeas and cinnamon in the butternut, sweetness of the pomegranate, candied pecan nuts and the freshness of the salad leaves, onions makes this dish a travel around the world on its own,” he said.

The other two dishes included a double bacon and cheese burger and Thai Chicken Satay, with smoked paprika Jasmine rice and peanut sauce.

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