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Chef Africa: Ashley Palmer-Watts's African Diary

1 commentBy Peter Ruddick and Ashley Palmer-Watts , 24-Sep-2012
Last updated the 30-Sep-2012 at 14:52 GMT

Related topics: Events & Awards, People, Chef Africa, Restaurants, Hotels, Pubs & Bars

While Ashley Palmer-Watts travels to Kenya to represent the hospitality industry on a Farm Africa challenge you can follow his progress here as he updates this blog with thoughts, reactions, photos and video.

Ashley Palmer-Watts's African Diary will detail his trip to Kenya representing the hospitality industry as the chef attempts to help the Farm Africa charity which supports fish farmers in their aim of becoming self-sufficient

Ashley Palmer-Watts's African Diary will detail his trip to Kenya representing the hospitality industry as the chef attempts to help the Farm Africa charity which supports fish farmers in their aim of becoming self-sufficient

The Fat Duck Group executive chef and head chef at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal has been tasked with swapping his Knightsbridge kitchen for one in Kisumu, Kenya where he will be suggesting tips for the local community on how they can add more value to the tilapia fish they rely on for food and an income.

You can follow his progress by checking out the latest post on this blog. He will be keeping in touch with the industry he is representing by sharing his experiences and thoughts on the project and how the hospitality sector can be involved.

  • For more on the work of Farm Africa and why they are keen to attract support from other members of the hospitality industry, click here.
  • Catch all the latest updates by following BigHospitality on Twitter  where you can also comment on Ashley's trip or leave him a message using the hashtag #ChefAfrica .

Sunday 30 September - Day Six: Final Thoughts - Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

When I first landed and looked at the first market it was extremely poor - the smell and general experience was not quite what I imagined. I knew it was going to be a bit like that from my other African experiences.

When you come further out from the towns intothe rural community life is very different - if I had to live here I would live rurally for sure - it can be a self-sustainable community - they grow food, live together and help each other out.

The support these farmers get from Farm Africa is massively important to them and they are very grateful.

One pond here seems to be loads of fish to eat for themselves - which is important. But that takes eight to nine months to get a harvest and to make a real business out of it one pond is not quite enough plus there are a lot of other challenges to overcome to build a business and bring an income in.

To come into a community like Joyce's and be welcomed is pretty special and everyone is so grateful to have visitors - everywhere we went all the kids want us to wave because we look so different - it is something else! I have never seen anything like it!

Joyce is amazing - I worked with her and she told me in Africa you are always working and never sitting down unless you are eating, drinking or sleeping. So to have pond that is easier to tend is so important.

Her dream is to be able to educate her children and grandchildren to better themselves so they need things like this to make it happen.

Cooking last night here for Joyce so many people was a challenge - we were told 20 but in the end around 60 people turned up and there was celebrations, dancing and kids playing. To be able to cook for them in a way that wasn't so alien was tricky. They all wanted to learn cooking!

The restaurant and hospitality industry has been so supportive of my work. So often here aid in Africa can be traded for other things that are less helpful but with this project the charity brings the ponds, the infrastructure and the training which is so important because it delivers long-lasting results.

I have seen the whole process from start to finish!

Saturday 29 September - Day Five: How to harvest a fish pond - Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Don't forget if you have any messages or questions for Ashley you can send us a tweet to @BigHospitality or use the #ChefAfrica hashtag.

Friday 29 September - Day Four: A day in the life of an African fish farmer - Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Thursday 27 September - Day Three: Why Aqua Shops in Kenya matter to fish farmers and people in the UK - Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
We spent today meeting a couple of Aqua Shop owners and lots of fish farmers who have been supported by Farm Africa. 

As well as visiting a number of Aqua Shops and fish farmers I am busy planning a tilapia meal to cook for Joyce Kadenge, our host in Kenya. Off to the market soon.

The first thing that had a big impression on me was meeting Saul Odenyo and seeing the Aqua Shop business he set-up for himself and how well that links with all the different fish farmers we met. 
The farmers are so grateful for all the support they get and all the training. They have learnt an awful lot but they have got an awful lot more to learn - they have some areas which they wish to expand on and take control of such as feed and fingelings. 
Lastly we met some traditional fishermen and learnt about the dwindling supplies in Lake Victoria - it is not much of a surprise because it is a global problem. I was quite surprised to see some of the fishermen that have come on land and started to farm tilapia - it shows a massive thought process to plan ahead for the years to come. 
Direct supply to the UK is not really available so that avenue might be something to come when things like transportation and keeping fish cold improves. This charity project seems a really sensible way to set people up to be able to sustain their own future. Fish suppliers and chefs in the UK need to be aware of it - we live in an incredibly privileged world where we don't have this issue - any little helps because it is a massive cause.
Wednesday 26 September - Day Two: Video Diary - Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Wednesday 26 September - Day Two: Markets, fish farmers and a tilapia lunch - Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Today we visited a fish market and I got the chance to see fresh tilapia on sale - we then had some deep-fried for lunch sat by the lake it was caught in.

We landed last night but today I really feel like we have arrived in Africa. Some of the most enjoyable things I have discovered are things that might seem obvious or stupid to the people here but in the world we live in we really don't have a clue.
One of the most impressive things has been the nature of the people here - they will take any opportunity to make a living or create an enterprise. 
We had a briefing on Farm Africa and 'aquaculture' earlier and it will be exciting to see how it ties up to those people who are fortunate enough to be able to start something up.
As well as giving people the chance to make money to live, the fish farms are trying to supply a massive demand to feed people here. We had a tilapia lunch by the lake but lots of people can't afford to eat fish.
Visiting a fish market and seeing our lunch being cooked in the kitchen in the pan with kale, onions and tomatoes has really surprised me. It was delicious! Ugali tastes of nothing but you eat it because you have to eat it - it is there for a purpose and seeing how people eat with it is something else!
We are now on the way to see an 'Aqua Shop' and then meet the community.
Tuesday 25 September - Day one: Initial thoughts - Ashley Palmer-Watts, head chef, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

After a flight to Nairobi and an overnight stay in the Kenyan capital we will be heading to Kisumu and the Mumias area of the Western province of the country to meet the community and see the house we will be living and cooking in later in the week

After a flight to Nairobi and an overnight stay in the Kenyan capital we will be heading to Kisumu and the Mumias area of the Western province of the country to meet the community and see the house we will be living and cooking in later in the week

When I was approached for this challenge it sounded like a good idea and what really adds value to going on a trip like this is that the money that is generated by the charity is actually used to educate the communities into being able to provide food for themselves and food to make money for their families. It is not just giving people something to eat but giving them something to sustain them for the future - generation after generation after generation.
I just hope that I can add some sort of value to the fish product that they can sell at market.
From a cook's point of view one of the things I am really looking forward to, and it is something we are very interested in anyway, is going back to the most primitive style of cooking - open flame, fire and wood. To see how they actually use that in its most basic form. We use it in a Josper oven, a BBQ or a high-science grill but they don't have that. It is as close as we are ever going to get to going right back to basics and see how they use fire, heat, the flavour, what they burn and what character it gives - that is quite exciting!
All the jabs are done, visa is done so I am prepared but I am of the mindset that lets just go and you can't plan too far ahead - I don't know how its going to be but I have got a fair idea and I am sure there will be major highs and some pretty sad times as well but I just hope we can add some value.
Monday 24 September - One day to go: Chef Africa Itinerary - Peter Ruddick, multi-media reporter, BigHospitality 

Ashley will be the guest of Joyce Kadenge and her family as the chef explores ways of helping the local community add value to the fish they farm for food and income.

Ashley will be the guest of Joyce Kadenge and her family as the chef explores ways of helping the local community add value to the fish they farm for food and income.

With less than 24 hours until Ashley Palmer-Watts begins his Kenya trip here is the, very packed, itinerary for his challenge:
Tuesday 25 September - Day one: Depart London to Nairobi - meet Erica Krug, country director for Farm Africa Kenya.
Wednesday 26 September - Day two: Depart Nairobi to Kisumu - early tilapia lunch, visit 'Aqua Shop' in Mumias, meet Joyce Kadenge and her community, stay in Kisumu.
Thursday 27 September - Day three: Meet traditional tilapia fishermen, second 'Aqua Shop' visit, dinner with Joyce and her family, stay in Kisumu.
Friday 28 September - Day four: Breakfast with Joyce's community, Ashley to shadow Joyce all day from tidying the house; preparing breakfast; tending the farm; collecting ingredients for dinner and helping to cook dinner, stay in Joyce's home.
Saturday 29 September - Day five: Ashley takes charge by harvesting fish, experimenting with cooking techniques, preparing the evening meal and enjoying last-night celebrations.
Sunday 30 September - Day six: Breakfast with Joyce, final tips on adding value to tilapia, goodbye to the community, travel to Kisumu, flight to Nairobi and depart Nairobi to London.

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

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Blog seem to be very interesting and informative. I love to enjoy reading new things. It’s great pleasure to get the chance to comment on such an informative blog. Thanks for share and keep it up.

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Posted by Candy
27 November 2012 | 12h44

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