By Titus Kakembo
After two hours of the cooks moving about like a mouse on the screen, the food was ready. Plates were decorated and the food placed in positions that tease the eye as tongues riot. Some guests had their artificial fingers nails detached after eating ferociously. This was at Haven Spot in Kololo where the guest of honour HE Massimiliano Mazzannti revealed how Italian dining culture is famous around the world, but it is much more than wines and pizzas.
“With these cooks in Kampala City diners can know Italian food, and through it, Italian culture. The best way to get fully immersed is by taking one cultural walk at a dining table like we are doing today,” paused Mazzanti. “When it comes to food, we are happiest when things are done right.”
True to his word for Judith Heard and Crystal Newman sharing a dinner table with diplomats was quite an experience. The table got livelier and passionate with every sip of red wine. Even a blind person could tell Italians are passionate about life’s pleasures, food being chief amongst them, but they are also creatures of tradition and habit.
The menu was divided into antipasti (appetizers), primi (pasta first courses), and secondi (meat second courses), with contorni (sides) and dolci (desserts) at the end.
But be warned, a full meal starting with appetizers and ending with dessert and coffee is usually saved for special occasions, and whether it’s lunch or dinner, it would be the main meal of that day. Even if you could manage to eat two additional meals, you probably would not have time or space to digest. These meals tend to last upwards of three hours.
One does not need to fly to Italy given the 20 Kampala chefs equipped with perfecting Italian cuisine at Haven Spot on November 22 in Kololo as part of the Italian Cultural and Culinary week celebrated in different forums.
Most of the participants confessed how all their life they have been trying to be as efficient as possible at work. This was in the company of the director Chef Training Culinary Association Reagan Kawuki.
“The unsung heroes in the tourism industry are chefs,” noted Kawuki. “They were part of why CHOGM was a success in 2017. Even before COVID-19 reduced tourist arrival numbers we were part of the chain in service provision.”
It took the trainer to encourage them to keep on learning new things if they are to consider themselves relevant in the fast-changing world.
“What you need is an idea in your head, equipment and ingredients to make any Italian,” tipped the trainer Chef Rajab Mwitu. “Here we have rabbit meat, chicken, entula (garden eggs) and wheat flour. The challenge is upon us to be creative and leave the diner asking for some more.”
Soon the gas cooker was lit, onions, tomatoes green pepper were chopped with practised expertise. Portion after portion of cooking oil, wine, curry and curries were poured in the sauce. Palms were opened, spoons were dipped in the cooking pots and drops were put to the mouth for tasting.
“Italian kitchens adopt simple cooking,” said Mwitu. “Nothing is put to waste. The trick is improvisation. You do not have to fly to Italy when markets here are stocked with fruits that can suffice.”