'If a chef doesn't understand an ingredient, it's a disaster waiting to happen'


If a chef doesnt understand an ingredient, its a disaster waiting to happen

Head Chef Kuhle Swana of KIZA Restaurant & Loung DIFC on popularising African food in the region

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Published: Fri 11 Oct 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 11 Oct 2019, 2:00 AM

Your best food-related experience.
Being part of a unique food concept in Dubai is a dream come true. African cuisine is the least popularised one in the world and this gives me an opportunity to promote the cuisine globally. The UAE is a melting pot of flavours and I want to be part of the contribution, especially for a cuisine with so much history, heritage and influence.
Who do you admire in the culinary world?
There are so many amazing chefs who've dedicated their lives to redefining cooking and the industry itself. As chefs, we don't cook food for our guests - we create memories. That's the admiration I have for everyone out there.
Your favourite culinary destination?
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, a destination for anyone adventurous enough to try it out. Ethiopians make their own spice blends with a variety of herbs and fresh greens. For vegans, this is the best cuisine.
How often do you eat out?
Twice a month, I get to explore the taste of the city. There's so much food to eat in this town; 365 days are not enough time to experience everything. So, on my day off, I visit the hot spots in town. Deira has authentic food and Dubai Marina and The Palm have some amazing restaurants with unique concepts - never a dull moment.
If you could cook for a high-profile personality, who would it be and what would you serve?
I would be honoured to cook for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-president and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. I would serve him a deconstructed African meat pie, followed by a cool cucumber and coconut soup to cleanse the palate. His next course would be a Nigerian interpretation of Efo Riro Chicken Roulade, served with pounded yam. To finish, a South African dessert: Malva Pudding.
You're asked to invent an unusual dish - what would it be?
A dessert of mopane worms in chilled mint and chocolate.
One ingredient/dish you can't stand?
Ingredients can be misunderstood; I've yet to come across one I can't stand, because I tend to research every time I start working with something new. If a chef doesn't understand the ingredient, it's a disaster waiting to happen.
After cooking all day, do you cook for yourself at home too?
No - I think fast food restaurants were made for chefs! Unless I'm cooking for a large group of friends, I cannot cook for myself. I love seeing people enjoying my cooking, so it's fulfilling for me. Otherwise, my friends tend to cook for me.
Favourite comfort food?
My absolute comfort food is samp, a typical African dish of boiled white corn kernels stamped and chopped until broke; serve this with beans and my mother's oxtail stew: yummy!
What would you want your last meal to be?
I'd be greedy and ask for everything I can eat to leave me with a lasting smile. My plate would be full. I'd request amasi, a sour milk, and phuthu, a childhood favourite; boerewors, a South African version of sausage; chakalaka (bean relish), lamb curry with salad, and finally, jelly and pizza. Give me pizza (no onions) any day.
Where can we find you, outside the kitchen?
I love the beach after sunset; I don't venture out there during the day, otherwise my skin will turn navy blue because of the scorching sun and sand. I also spend a great deal of my time with friends; so, when I'm not in my own kitchen, I'm in someone else's, cooking whatever I can find.
- As told to Karen Ann Monsy

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