Resilience Food Stories: An agri-chef in Kenya who grows his own food

Resilience Food Stories: An agri-chef  in Kenya who grows his own food

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“At 45 Degrees Kitchen, we believe food is the centre of everything we do as humans, whether at home with family and friends or at a fancy restaurant. 45 Degrees Kitchen is committed to food with integrity. We understand the connection between how food is grown or raised, how it’s prepared and how it tastes. Genuine raw ingredients come from our own garden and are sourced from organic farms in Nairobi and its surroundings”, Harold Sena Akoto, a Kenyan chef who grows his own food, said.

Harold Sena Akoto grew up with his grandparents on a cocoa plantation in Ghana. His father insisted that he attend university because ‘farming equals poverty’. But after a year, he gave up his studies. He wanted to cook, so he left for Italy. After a career in London, Italy, France, Canada and the United States, where he had his own restaurant, he returned to Africa and set up the 45 Degrees Kitchen in a house belonging to his parents-in-law. He wants to cook as his grandmother did, with ingredients from his own land

The meeting with Harold in his restaurant starts with an anecdote when I ask him where the name 45 Degrees comes from. With a radiant smile, he tells me how, as a young chef, he started work in a fancy restaurant in the US. On his first working day, he went to sharpen his knife with the honing steel and apparently put his knife to it at the wrong angle. At which a member of the team shouted across the kitchen, ‘This isn’t a chef. This is an idiot. He sharpens his knife at a 45-degree angle.’ That day he decided that if he ever started his own restaurant, he would call it 45 Degrees.

Harold wants to cook as his grandmother did, with ingredients from his own land. His pans are black like his grandma’s from years of cooking on an open fire. “These pans get better and better. They’re meant to be black. Gleaming saucepans are only for show”, he said.

“One thing that amazes me is my wife has given me a challenge. My wife told me that Kenyan men don’t cook, which I know anyway because, you know, African guys, they don’t want us in the kitchen. So one of the things I took from my wife is this: I will find guys in Kenya who love to cook.

That’s where Murithi came in, that’s where Joshua came in, and that’s where Michael came in. These guys had no knowledge about food, but I took it upon myself to train them.” Murithi has come a long way. He knows everything about ingredients and about cooking naturally.

45 Degrees Kitchen is a bit of a hideout. It’s hard to find, tucked away in a suburb of Nairobi. And it needs to stay that way. Harold doesn’t give his restaurant too much publicity because it’s where you need to feel at home, almost as if you’ve come to eat at his house.

We have our own farm down the road, not too far from here, in the same compound. We have a guy called Murithi, another Murithi, who does all the growing for us, for the restaurant.’

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