‘It is all about how I sink into preparing the food’

Chef Kenga preparing a meal in the Serena Resort kitchen. His mother nurtured his love for cooking. Photos | Edgar R. Batte

What you need to know:

  • Culinary: Born at the coastal Kilifi Country in Kenya, he was introduced to cooking by his mother, who later sacrificed her savings to make sure he went to Kenya’s Utalii College to become a professional chef. The college retained him, giving him his first job. In 2005, the Serena Group of Hotels spotted him. It was a leap of faith because he left a permanent job for a contractual one. Eighteen years later, Anthony Kenga is the head chef at Lake Victoria Serena Golf & Spa.

What triggered your love for food and cooking?

It was beyond cooking and serving the physical meal but the heart and soul my mother urged me to put into my cooking. When I grew up and became a professional chef, I learnt that I needed to cater to different people; the diabetic, those with cancer and any other health conditions.

What have been the highlights of your career growth?

When I joined Serena, I started my journey afresh as a commis chef (Commis chefs are novice chefs who support a chef in a commercial kitchen). In 2010, I was promoted to become a sous chef.

I began a management programme for culinary in 2011. On completion, I became the executive chef of Mara Serena Lodge & Resort. It was my first appointment to head a kitchen where I was able to increase revenue and structure it within the nine years I was there.

In 2020, I was transferred to Lake Victoria Serena Golf & Spa Resort as head chef, which was out of my home country and with many demands, but I am happy that today, it is better than I found it, and day-in day-out, I still see myself growing.

What drives you?

Passion and devoting myself to my work. I create a lot of time for it, which shows in the results.

What advice or tips can you give someone starting out in this career?

Parents should not take us to college because it is their responsibility but know what we want. During my childhood, I loved cooking and anytime my mother would want to eat beans, she would boil them and ask me to fry them.

I think she saw something in me and chose to nurture it. When I finished high school, I had passion for accounts, which I did to intermediate but she reminded me about the good food I used to cook and told me that if I chose to become a chef, she would close her accounts for me to go to Utalii.

The memories of preparing food on stones and firewood, and bonding with the pot. At the time, to go to Utalii, we had to first meet the minister.

I walked with my mother from the village for 40 kilometres to reach the minister’s office and 40 kilometres back. There were no vehicles. When I got the opportunity, everything I did was to make her proud.

What is your average day like?

My strength as a chef are in the morning hours and into mid-morning, deliberating about the day with the senior and sous chefs. I delegate and down the tier.

How do you mentor?

I allow the staff to choose their mentors. I train those mentors to share down to the mentees.

What things do you pass on?

Training is key in gastronomy. Then food presentation. I give them leeway to come up with their ideas. Every day, we have a chef on duty for the day so we all get information through them. He or she checks on cleanliness, requisitions, orders and coordinates the restaurants and the department. Apart from executive duties, they are in charge for the day.

What do you do to relax?

I love fun, making friends and cooking. I do consultancy and advise about food. I love music. I sing and play the keyboard in my house.

What is your favorite food?

Chicken in butter sauce.