Kitchen Magicians &Beyond


Dinner menu at Bateleur Camp
by Jean Campbell
Many of the famous chefs have their own TV shows and named restaurants; they are innovative, their kitchens win acclaim the world over, and I am sure the food served from them is delicious. Think of it though; they have state of the art kitchens, many people working under them, and access to the finest ingredients in the world almost without limit. Granted, the pressure is high, but honestly, they don’t have to face the challenges faced and met by some of the unsung heroes in the catering world.

For example, when’s the last time Gordon Ramsey came to work expecting to cater to a full house only to find his complete storehouse (containing all the food for the week) has been trampled and destroyed by a panicked “dazzle” of zebra trying to escape from a lion attack? I am guessing that he’s never had to work around that! (Yes indeed it is a “dazzle” of zebra, and I know that because I bought the T-shirt.)
Breakfast at Grumeti
Has Wolfgang Puck ever had to have eyes in the back of his head so that he can outsmart the blue monkeys (or any of the monkeys) who can steal fruit quicker than you can imagine from the nicely placed breakfast table. I think not!
Mr. “Bam” himself, Emeril Lagasse may be a favorite from the Food Network, but likely he has not had to think up a way to hyena-proof his fridge when the hyena can easily chew the entire door off it!

A table set up for a bush dinner

These are just three of the challenges (and there are so many I can’t even imagine) conquered as part of the job description at the recently visited &Beyond camps; as well as at the many other safari camps out there. Staff running these kitchens somehow manage to consistently turn out delicious, fresh and appealing food day in and day out in spite of these inconveniences; in many cases they do so out of the simplest, eco-friendly and most meager kitchen facilities. And even more surprisingly they do so with a smile whether you see them at 10pm or at 4:30am!
Just to take you there for a minute; I am not a doughnut person; in fact I never eat them. There is something entirely different however when the doughnut is made and cooked in front of you; served up at an outdoor breakfast venue positioned to enjoy an unobstructed view of Africa waking up. Now that’s a doughnut I would eat any day! Oh yes, and these doughnuts were delightfully void of the ugly aftertaste experienced when eating any of the retail offerings I’ve had.
The chefs at Bateleur Camp
Then there was the soup! Our trip could have actually been referred to as the Soup Tour. Every day we had soup that was truly the “best soup ever”! Served with freshly made delicious bread, the soup was magnificent; it became rather exciting to see what could possibly be next and just when we thought that had to be “it,” “it” was trumped again the next day by something just as wonderful. As a little teaser; imagine the best tomato soup ever (seriously) made with no tomatoes at all; only tomato paste, and peanut butter and more! Or Tomato and Tamarind Soup made with lots of tomatoes as well as 15 other ingredients!
Hhhmmm good is really all I can say. Well I could go on and on about this, and really I could give you the recipes, but you know how the saying goes; if I tell you, I’d have to. . .
My only advice is to buy the cookbook (A Kitchen Safari: Stories & Recipes From The African Wilderness) or a MUCH better idea; go the camps and experience it all for yourself.
I applaud the cooks and staff members at all the camps we visited, they produced quality dishes every day and served it with such a grace, it was wonderful. The big names in the culinary world may get all the fame and fortune, but in my mind it is the staff in the kitchens such as these; the simple kitchens everywhere, quietly working behind the scenes creating and serving up food made from the most humble beginnings, that are the true kitchen heroes. I hope they see the wonder of what they do, and I hope they get the recognition they deserve; what they do can only be described as magic!
(andBeyond camps visited: Kichwa Tembo/Bateleur Camp, Klein’s, Under Canvas, Grumeti, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge)
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