Croque-monsieur? That is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, sometimes topped with fried egg; a staple food in France. So why should you care about it in Uganda?
Well, one of Uganda’s celebrity chefs, Henry Wanyama, thinks if the French, Chinese, and Italian have such signature cuisines, local foodies can achieve something similar.
“Our food culture is so rich and there’s so much to explore,” he says, “If we pay attention to it we can be put on the same rating with Chinese, French or Italian.”
Sorry, but the presenter of the popular `Kitchen Delight’ show on local television who is known for making gourmet meals in a minute with excitement and vigor does not have the `rolex’ in mind.
In fact, Wanyama says he does not find the recent move by the Tourism Ministry to promote `rolex’ as one of Uganda’s delicacies exciting at all.
“There’s nothing thrilling about it apart from the name,” he says. Instead, he says, more energy should go into other local foods. He says it’s exciting that Uganda has one of the richest cuisines in the world and different cultures have different styles of preparing the same thing. That is a huge complement coming from Wanyama who has dabbled in Chinese cuisine in China. He cites ‘Kalo’ (millet bread) which is cooked in almost all regions of Uganda in sometime starkly different ways.
That passion is typical of Wanyama and was nurtured early in his life as he helped in the kitchens of the many food kiosks his mother run.
He says he enjoyed watching his mother do lots of creative things and, during holidays, he would cook to raise pocket money. Wanyama attended 13 schools in 13 years!
At one school, he was voted head boy and was announced winner but was expelled at the next assembly. Despite that, he graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Education).
Wanyama now owns a restaurant and The Cooking School Uganda that offers certificate, diploma and short courses in cookery which, he says, taught him about commitment and diligence regarding one’s love.
The school, for example, started with just three students with each barely able to pay the Shs100, 000 per term yet all classes were 100% practical and costly.
But that is in Wanyama’s past. His focus how is on how to tap more in the growing attention people are giving to food as they pay more and more attention to what they eat.
Wanyama’s lite side:
Any three things we don’t know about you?
I am very shy and generous for instance there students who study here for free yet lessons are practical and require spending. I also speak a lot of languages which has made my other side as an interpreter easy. I’ve been an interpreter in church for 16 years.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness comes with fulfillment. Whether you pay me or not, I will cook because it gives me joy.
What is your greatest fear?
If I made you a meal and you don’t like it.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
People find problems with my liking for perfect things. I can’t settle for less and it has given me what I want but people don’t like it.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
I hate dirtiness.