Whenever there is a big event at Kampala Serena Hotel chef Peace Butera will move around to see to it that all is in check.
She is tall, peaceful and always smart in her uniform, a white overall. When she is sure guests are served, she will take it slow, reclining in a seat to enjoy stage performances. But even as she partakes of a concert, she still guides her team.
Second in command after the executive chef of the five-star hotel, Butera is one of the longest-serving members of the hotel. She started out at Nile Hotel in 1993 before the facility changed management in 2004.
“I began as a trainee from Uganda College of Commerce (UCC). What I do best is cooking although there comes a time when I cannot get involved in cooking anymore,” she explains.
As a chef, she is past the level where she gets judged by what she cooks but rather she tastes what others cook and judges the food then draws menus and interacts with clients to make sure that they are happy with the service and food served to them.
On an average day, she is up by 5am and has to prepare herself, take children to school and be at work before 6am. She has to be early as breakfast at the hotel is served starting at 6.30am. From then on, it is a rollercoaster. Officially, she will work for eight hours but special events require that she stays around to supervise her team to make sure they deliver adequately.
For the extra hours she works, she jokes that this is her dedication to country’s motto: ‘For God and My Country’. She adds that in her profession, one party has to suffer because it is hard to give 100 per cent to work and family. Her family often misses her presence.
She is married to Vincent Butera and the couple have four children; two biological and two adopted. She sacrifices family time for a career she has been passionate about since childhood.
Loving the profession
“Growing up, I admired being a chef. I was raised in a family of many and I admired my maternal aunt because she used to love cooking. Her food was always out of this world. She endeavoured to make a good meal for her husband too, and I always admired her food. I wished to grow up and make the same meals as well,” Butera says of her inspiration.
Her cousins later supported her in a catering school in order to pursue her dream. She has been cooking since. She has taught her children to cook and when she is at work, she sits back and lets the little one do the preparation of the main meals or a snack for the family.
It is moments like this, and a career that spans more than two decades that encourages the seasoned chef to ponder on retirement. The other reason is that food is serious and one has to be careful when drawing menus and later on handling it because it needs to be safe and free from poisoning.
Perks on the job
When she is not worrying about this, Butera is grateful for working at Serena, a good brand and employer that allows her 14 days off her busy schedule to unwind on a holiday treat with her family.
“I have travelled to Kenya, Zanzibar, South Africa, Cape Town and my food has been tasted in all these countries,” she adds.
She is from a family of 10. She was raised in different relatives’ homes who taught her good morals. Unlike today where young people are seen enjoying life freely, she recalls living with strict guardians.
“I managed to go through the teenage stage with no adventures; no boys at all. I was in Senior Four vacation when I first met a boyfriend. We went to dance together at Club Earthquake in Jinja. It was the first time I went out,” she recalls.
Favourite food: Katogo of ground nut sauce and matooke
Signature dish: She has prepared many dishes and she can hardly point out one. As long as clients enjoy a meal, she feels satisfied that she has done her job well.
Challenges and how she deals with them: She is a God-fearing person and believes that everything has an answer from Him.