Top Food Critic Offers Advice

Kaddu Mukasa Kironde holds a BA in Economics and Business Administration from Fordham University and has worked in restaurant management, food production, and giving culinary lessons. However, he is best associated with his years as Uganda’s food critic.

How did you get interested in the food industry?

It was back in 1966. My father was Uganda’s first UN ambassador to the states. His wife’s father Henry Hockins was a Trinidad immigrant to America. He was a chef and I never had formal training but learned a lot from him. Back then there was no internet.

I am no longer actively involved in food but I am fortunate to be able to critique food for the last twenty years. No one in Uganda can lay claim to the knowledge I have, or at least, to put it to paper. I have the perspective from the top.

More recently, about 3 or 4 years ago, Private Sector Foundation had a business plan competition and my idea I won the $25,000 price. The original proposal was to breed specific pigs but realistically the project needed more money and I decided to become a supplier of meat products. I supply beef fillet to Serena. I also supply cooked food to companies like Tropical Bank and City Tyres.

How do you think Uganda food industry fares in East Africa?

In 1962 Uganda was at par with other countries in the industry because young people were sent to France and other parts of Europe to train. Between 1971 and ’79 gains fell and there was no incentive to be in this business. Today we have made great strides but to get good chefs we do not have enough competition or people prepared to pay top rate.

In Uganda there are no standards to speak of and the only place with relatively high standards in terms of food is the Serena Hotel because they have a whole range of hotels and can fine tune their kitchen to international standards. Many internationally based chefs spend 15 to 16 years before they become top chefs and they are able to have much higher standards because of competitions.

Do you think this is because of a gap in or expense of ingredients?

Uganda has a standard list of items and wealth of product. Go to Nakasero Market on Sunday or the various supermarkets that were not there 20 years ago. There is an abundance of herbs, spices and fresh products. As a chef, you have to make an investment, and dry foods have a shelf life of years.

What do you think is lacking in Ugandan restaurants?

Many people are not willing to put in the time. As a business owner, you have to put in the time, about 16 or 17 hours a day. Non-Ugandans have succeeded through hard work and Ugandans do not want to face this. Another formula for success is you can’t deviate from your standards. Consistency not luck is what works. The food business is very challenging and the owner must be involved.

What do you look out for when reviewing?

You have to remember that we are not in the first world and so many things you have to forgive. A place can have a toilet next to the kitchen, so it’s the final product that matters. After, I consider presentation, ambience, and service. Food is subjective like beauty.

How would you describe the Ugandan food culture?

Surprisingly Ugandans are extremely adventurous. Chinese and Indian restaurants are successful in Uganda and a large number cater to Ugandans. They also do things in a big way and are showy like the weddings. Ugandans are not tight fisted and their lifestyles reflect a lot of spending even on food.

Is there any food you are allergic to?

There is no food although I have not had dog meat. If I was in a setting where it was being served it would depend on norm of society if I would have it.

What would you advise aspiring chefs in Uganda?

They need to be more self-critical. There is no room for complacency. They need self-appraisal with no room for complacency. They have to keep up with the trends and the internet does so much in terms of making knowledge available. Teach yourself knowledge from the internet and actually practice. What is tamaris? What is coriander?

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