Chef Rahul Rana is the corporate executive chef of the Good Earth Group. If you’ve been to the Blue Door, Nyama Mama or any Yao restaurant in Nairobi, then you’ve been a beneficiary of what the Good Earth Group has to offer; delightful experiences of food and drink in exceptional locales.
We visited Pan Asian Yao in Gigiri to have a chat with chef Rahul about his food experience is Nairobi. Rahul has been a chef for 18 years and has worked internationally from India to London and now finds himself in Kenya. He is soft-spoken, warm and a straight-to-the-point kinda guy.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I did not grow up wanting to become a chef. It’s not like my mother or grandmother were chefs and so I wanted to follow in their footsteps. It is when I was in culinary school that I began my cooking journey. During practicals in the kitchen I took an interest in the art of cooking. You can say I fell in love with the practicality of the kitchen.
What is your food specialty?
Although I have trained in various cuisine styles and especially in European style cuisine, I now focus on South East Asian cuisine and that is what I do here at Pan Asian Yao. Pan Asian Yao is the fusion philosophy of South-East Asian food and ingredients. The cuisine includes a wide range of foods from Thailand, Japan, India and China.
What has been the response of the local community to Pan Asian cuisine?
The response has been great! The Nairobi food market is growing immensely and Nairobians are gaining a great understanding and appreciation of food. On Sundays when we serve our Pan Asian brunch, over 50% of the attendees and patrons are the local Kenyans.
Tell me more about this brunch
We host a brunch every Sunday from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. There is a buffet section which includes Dim Sum, tandoori, sea food, soups and vegetables and all sorts of chomas. Not to mention there are bottomless cocktails involved.
What are the key differences between Kenyan food and Asian food?
For one, Kenyans looove their nyama choma, and for them it’s simple, they fire up the grill and grill the meat till ready. For Asians, they make sure to add different flavours to the same meat. From cumin to turmeric. Also, Asians love their spices; Everything is spicy
What are your favourite ingredients work with?
Chilli and cumin
Who is the one person in the world you’d love to cook for?
Hector Jimenez-Bravo. He actually mentored me when I was in London and I look up to him greatly. He has received the World Master Chef award and is a judge on Master Chef Ukraine. If I could serve him up a dish and impress him, I would be proud.
So what do you do when you’re not in the kitchen?
I like to kick back with a cold bottle of Whitecap.
What is your favourite thing about being a chef?
Seeing the satisfaction on the diners’ faces and meeting different people everyday. I love the criticism and appreciation the people I feed give back.
Photography by Jackson Mnyamwezi