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Knightsbridge to Kenya: Ashley Palmer-Watts to represent hospitality industry on Farm Africa trip

By Peter Ruddick , 28-Aug-2012
Last updated on 28-Aug-2012 at 18:27 GMT2012-08-28T18:27:48Z

Ashley Palmer-Watts, The Fat Duck Group executive chef and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal head chef, will fly to Kenya next month to work with fish farmers and bring his restaurant industry expertise to a Farm Africa project in the country.

Palmer-Watts will make the week-long trip to the Kisumu area in western Kenya at the end of September. He will be the guest of the Luo tribe who rely on the locally-caught freshwater tilapia fish to survive.

The farmers are helped by the UK-based charity Farm Africa in their aim of trading the fish for other products in order to be self-sustainable. After visiting local communities and acting as sous chef while they cook, the chef will be learning and sharing skills before giving his take on ways the farmers can add value to the fish they sell.

Back to basics

"I’m excited about visiting Farm Africa’s fish farming enterprise but I have no idea what to expect so feel a bit nervous," Palmer-Watts told BigHospitality.

The freshwater tilapia fish which the Luo tribe in western Kenya rely on for food and income.

The freshwater tilapia fish which the Luo tribe in western Kenya rely on for food and income.

"Cooking with the community will mean going right back to basics – no fridges, no water on tap and certainly no hot and cold-running sous chefs! I imagine it will be fascinating to observe the approach to taste and flavour considering the limitations."

The diet of the Luo people is based around the tilapia fish, which they eat with ‘ugali’, a polenta-like porridge made with cornmeal. In the Kisumu area around 60 per cent of families depend on the product for food and income but overfishing and pollution in Lake Victoria have depleted stocks, causing prices to rise which has significantly impacted the local community.

The answer from Farm Africa, which was founded in 1985, has been to create fishponds which the charity is helping to dig and stock improving the quality and quantity of tilapia.


Touring the area near Lake Victoria, which is known for hippopotamuses and crocodiles, the Dinner chef will meet some fish farmers whose annual income has soared from 2,000 to 70,000 Kenyan shillings because of Farm Africa ‘Aqua Shops’ which supply training, feed and young fish.

Palmer-Watts will also experience the daily fish farmer routine, harvesting and shopping in the market before cooking a meal for the village himself.

A typical mud hut kitchen in the Kisumu area of western Kenya where Ashley Palmer-Watts will be cooking.

A typical mud hut kitchen in the Kisumu area of western Kenya where Ashley Palmer-Watts will be cooking.

"Cooks love to learn from one another and I’m no exception. I can’t wait to see how they do things, and hopefully swap my trade secrets and I know I will learn a lot.  It’s going to be a huge privilege to stay in the community, getting a close look at the impact Farm Africa has made to improve life for these farmers and their families," he said.

The visit to the area, just miles from the equator, is the latest collaboration between the food service industry and Farm Africa as part of the aim to end hunger in the continent, as chief executive Nigel Harris explained.

"Last autumn, ten of the most senior figures in the UK food industry climbed Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro for Farm Africa, and it heralded the exciting partnerships on which many of the joint initiatives that Farm Africa is planning can be based," he said.

For more information on Ashley Palmer-Watt's #ChefAfrica trip with Farm Africa, keep visiting BigHospitality which will be providing exclusive coverage and updates in the build-up to, and during, the project.