Ali Matano Mwakulonda is the group executive chef at Munyonyo Speke Resort. He attended A-Level at Voi High School, Kenya.
He joined Coast Institute of Technology for a tourism course. Subsequently, he was accepted at the prestigious and world famous Kenya Utalii College where he pursued a diploma in food production.
“In 1989, I joined Leisure Lodge Hotel & Club as a Chef de Partie where I spent four years before moving on to the acclaimed Safari Beach Hotel as a demi Chef. Eventually, I was taken on as the Head Chef at Gallo’s Restaurant and finally ended up at the Windsor Golf Club as the Senior Sous Chef.” His career spans 25 years of experience in the food industry and he has no regrets.
“In 2001, Sudhir Ruparelia headhunted me and asked me if I would be willing to relocate to Uganda. The offer was from Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort and Speke Resort Munyonyo and I consider this my biggest and most challenging assignment to date,” he explains. Here are excerpts about his culinary passion.
Tell us about your kitchen ethos and philosophy.
I believe in running a well-organised kitchen, working with staff who are knowledgeable and willing to learn and excel in their chosen field. I put emphasis on food knowledge, hygiene as well as nutrition. I’m keen on team building and always try to impart the belief in my co-workers that no man is an island. We achieve results by working as a group. I’m proud of the team I have.
What are the culinary highlights in your career?
Working at Munyonyo has been very challenging and rewarding. I have handled numerous including, state banquets, meals for numerous heads of state at Chogm, the East African Community, the launch of and Warid Telecom. No two events are ever alike. Over the years, we have managed to acquit ourselves with distinction. I have also taken part in Chaine des rotisseurs dinners.
Which chefs have influenced you the most?
Chef Michelle Gillard. He taught me Italian cuisine as well as Japanese.
Chef Shawn Armstrong is a top UK chef whose website I follow avidly. An excellent forum for all manner of food and I make time to check it frequently.
Bob Gallcano, a leading food and beverage manager and he was instrumental in helping me appreciate the value of food costing.
Name your four favourite cookbooks.
Professional cooking by Wayne Gisslen which has a wide spectrum of cooking recipes as well as methodology.
Betty Crocker is an innovative writer who comes with some amazing recipes that have served me well over the years.
Sally’s Baking Addition is an invaluable book for baking and pastry.
Classic cooking was my introduction to cooking when I joined Utalii College and gave me interest as well good foundation.
Culinary Consciousness is the quintessential vegetarian fusion bible.
What is your favourite kitchen gadget?
The knife- it is like a pen useful for cutting and preparing my mise en place.
What is your most memorable dining experience?
Wine and dine: When you go out for dinner the food that you are eating has to be paired with the correct wine.
Live cooking. For example, you pick a lobster at the Tamarind Restaurant and then right before your eyes it is prepared and then within a short time it is served to you piping hot and ready to eat.
Your favourite eating joint in Uganda is…
Mediterraneo Restaurant in Kololo.
Have you any food item that you can think of that you hate to admit to liking?
Which dish would you single out as being your favourite?
Seafood because I grew up in the coastal region.
Tell us about your worst experience in the kitchen..
Cooking live crabs. At first it was scary since they move around and they have claws however after a while one gets used to them besides we use tongs.
What are your specialties?
Ali: Cooking sea food and homemade pastas.
Ala carte dishes because of the same product but and the end you change the presentation and the flavour.
Can you think of a food for which you would die?
No, it depends on the preparation.
What food would you die for to travel across the globe?
Each place has its culture therefore you have to experience the culture and taste.
What do you most love about cooking?
Ali: Food is passion food is love.
Patience is a secret to good food.
Cooking does not end everyday new ideas and presentation are being introduced.
What is the state of the culinary affairs in Uganda?
It is developing rapidly because most people enjoy dining not only foreigners but also citizens .
Three indispensable food items: Cereals, eggs and rice
Four items in your fridge now
Chicken, beef, fish and vegetables
Your comfort food is...
Fish, ugali and greens
Secret junk food you love
A sandwich any day