By Ryan Weakley – Group Chef Trainer
Planning a trip abroad is always an exhilarating and exciting experience, with the chance of trying out new and intriguing flavors from a foreign land.
If you’re traveling with special eating requirements, there may be a bit of added stress when it comes to trying out new cuisines. You can be assured that every Asilia meal is prepared with the greatest care, and when it comes to special requirements, we’re able to cater to most dietary needs. Food allergies or intolerances, specific dietary observances, or even if you’re a self-proclaimed picky eater – we’ll ensure your needs are met so you can focus on having the best time on safari.
In this blog post, we chat to our Group Chef Trainer, Ryan Weakley and highlight the many ways we ensure each and every guests leaves us with a full, and satisfied, tummy – as well as unforgettable memories of their safari in East Africa, of course.
Do we cater for halaal, kosher & vegetarian?
All requests, whether religious, health-related or personal choice, are happily catered for and our menus are adapted according to your needs. The restrictions and severity of certain requests will require extra planning and preparation, such as transporting specific equipment, and these would need to be communicated to our camps prior to travel so that we can make the necessary arrangements. When it comes to religious requests, we might need to source a few special ingredients and products for yourself, possibly even a specialized chef, which may take time but if it is possible, we will do all we can to ensure it happens!
There is a large Muslim community in Tanzania, therefore all of the meats (bar the pork that we use) are certified Halaal, which means all of our Tanzanian menus are Halaal friendly. On days when we do have pork on the menu, a suitable substitute is prepared for Halaal guests, either utilizing fish, chicken, beef etc. or the choice of the vegetarian option for that particular day. All other restrictions, such as no alcohol being used, are taken into account as well. In Kenya, it is a bit trickier to cater to extremely strict Kosher guests due to logistics but we always do our utmost best to ensure all requests are met. If you are travelling to Kenya and follow a Kosher diet, just let us know beforehand and we’ll take care of the rest.
There’s nothing better than a hot breakfast to start the day – beef bacon and salamis are available to be enjoyed for breakfast. When it comes to our Kosher guests, it does get a little bit more complicated, as this will depend on how orthodox the guests are with their religion. We currently do have a full set of Kosher equipment that is available to be sent into camp, which comprises of clean pots, pans, knives etc. as well as all crockery. In the past, really orthodox guests have opted for a pescatarian menu, incorporating fish and vegetarian options – all of our fish is sustainably sourced and does meet Kosher requirements.
Do we have a special vegetarian or halaal menu for children?
We do have a kiddies menu available and this can be adapted to cater for both Halaal and Kosher requirements. You can see our kiddies menu here.
Do we offer ‘cooking experience’ at any of our camps?
One of the most exciting cooking experiences on offer is our traditional Swahili cooking class at Matemwe – hosted by our chef, you’ll learn how to recreate authentic Zanzibar dishes which show you just how the locals mix and match their unique spices – your friends and family back home will thank you for it!
We currently also offer cooking experiences at Jabali Ridge, when chef Rama is in camp, but all of our guests are more than welcome to ask for a kitchen tour in any of the Tanzanian camps. The majority of Tanzanian chefs have a very limited grasp on English, luckily the joy of cooking needs no words and the experience is one that shouldn’t be missed!
What training do we provide to our chefs and how do we select them?
As Group Chef Trainer, I am constantly moving through camps throughout the year, doing on-site training. Added to that, we have an annual training programme that we run every year, whereby we bring in groups of chefs to Little Oliver’s and conduct an intensive week-long training programme with each group, covering everything from kitchen basics, knife skills, dietaries etc. through to specific recipe and menu training.
All of our chefs from Northern Tanzania will be taken through this course until the end of March this year and I will then conduct a similar course in Southern Tanzania and do the same thereafter in Kenya too.
What is your favourite meal to prepare?
I love preparing comfort food – anything unfussy that the whole table can enjoy, ranging from the freshest salads all the way through to melt in the mouth lamb shanks or succulent roasts.
When on safari, we want all of our guests to feel comfortable – whether it be in their accommodations, on their game drives or at the dinner table.
What’s the most difficult thing about preparing food in the bush?
Logistically, it is extremely difficult to source and transport specific ingredients into camps. Fresh produce often has to travel long distances over a day or two and due to the status of roads in East Africa, the quality of ingredients is often compromised during these long trips. So to combat this, we source as much of our fresh ingredients from the local farmers close to the camps. This is done in conjunction with Epimark, our Positive Impact Co-ordinator, who oversees our two vegetable gardens in Tanzania. Not only have these gardens provided the benefit of empowering local communities, but they also greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the meals prepared in camp. You can read more about the two vegetable gardens we currently own in the Serengeti and on Rubondo Island here.
Why did you want to become a chef in the safari industry?
I have always had a fascination and love with the outdoors. Childhood weekends on friends and family farms, holidays in South African National Parks etc.
Becoming a chef in the safari industry has allowed me to seamlessly combine my love for cooking and that of the outdoors and photography. It has provided me with the opportunity to work in some of the best wildlife locations in Southern and East Africa, too!