My name is Dennis Ang’ani. I’m 24 years old and a Kenyan national. I was born and raised in Kenya to German Kenyan national father and a Kenyan mother. Thus I identify with multiculturalism and speak English, Swahili, German and Spanish. I reside in Kenya though have been to a few countries in Europe, Baltics and a few places around North America. I studied culinary arts at the International Hotel and Tourism Institute, completing my studies in 2013.
My love for culinary arts stemmed from the love of football. As a young kid up to the age of 16 I had a dream of becoming a footballer and worked hard to pursue this dream. On one vivid occasion I remember watching a program on television that included chefs doing their work, and all the teamwork, flair, pressure, cohesiveness present in their kitchens. To me, this related to the same aspects of football. I viewed the Head chef as the head coach, team captain as sous chef and players as the ched de parties, demis and commis and since then I was hooked.
On joining culinary school, I was the only one who did not know how to cook, hold a knife and all matters related to cooking, but come the finishing year, I was second best in cooking exams, so this furthered my dreams even more and since then I have always wanted to own my own restaurant.
CUISINE AND CULINARY EXPERIENCE
I first trained under culinary maestro Luca Alvarez Molteni and Sarah Molteni (owners of the Barn chefs in Canada) in pastry. Since then I have worked in five star hotels, cruise ships, private chef to brazilian delegates and chef consultant of different hotels and restaurants. I have been to Italy, Germany, Spain, Mexico, U.S.A, Jamaica, Netherlands, Croatia etc but the biggest culture that had an influence on me was the Latin culture. First because these were the people who took me in when I worked abroad and second because in my immediate work area 50% were people of Latin heritage. This influence had an effect on the path that I followed in cooking for there are also many similarities in their way and African way of cooking, ingredients, dining and interaction. Thus I can say I am more inclined to Afro Latin cooking and culture than anything else, but I am an open book as well and draw inspiration from other settings that I feel compel a dialogue with the African cuisine.
As a professional I am obviously inspired by the world’s greatest chefs but I am in my element when inspired by orchestral music. I am a big fan of the orchestra and there is something in me that connects a maestro and his orchestra with a chef and his team. I draw parallels from the symphony of orchestral music and the hard work and camaraderie it takes to achieve a piece and play it to perfection. Among the people who inspire me from music to create dishes are Leonard beinstein, Nick bejic, Rossini, Offenbah, Ricardo Mutti..and the list goes on.
To me , cuisine is a play, cuisine is fun, cuisine is happiness, cuisine is a dialogue, cuisine is far much more than just eating yet it is also far less serious than world changer. To me it is unexplainable, a paradox between what is and what is not, that I solely rely on experiences from the guest in the present. It is my goal to one day evoke the emotion of my guests in the same way the orchestra pieces evoke emotion to the listeners. I want my guests to be able to relate their experience from my cooking to the emotion level of their milestones in life. Will I ever achieve that? I don’t know, but it’s something that I strive for.
First of all as an African, then as an African chef, it has always been my dream to show the world what we have. The food appreciation culture is low but with the chef’s rising, we are heading to a place where the potential is immeasurable. I feel we are still very young gastronomically thus chefs now have the freedom and space to create and even integrate new dishes to the African cuisine. It is my goal together with other African chefs to come together and bind our multicultural worlds together and give our cuisine a voice. It would be an amazing milestone when one day instead of adopting western cultures, or eastern cultures and so on, we could instead share our culture to those worlds, which in the end would contribute not only to Africa but the whole gastronomy world. I strongly feel we have the resources, ingredients and the space to do it, so it’s time for us to sharpen our minds. I am inspired mostly by Brazilian chef Alex Atala (partly cos of my affiliations with Brazilian cuisine as well) because he was the first to come to the front and say he will use Brazilian ingredients to revolutionize Brazilian food. The other is Gaston Acurio who famously asked “why are we doing French food without being French. What is our contribution to cuisine?”. These are two people who have helped (together with the likes of ferran adria, aduriz andoni, joan rocca etc) give Latin cuisine a voice and it is my dream that we can one day give Africa its voice as well.
Personally as a Chef, I try as much as I can to use “African ingredients” and a mix of both western and local cooking methods depending on what I
want to achieve in. The goal is not to isolate Africa but rather to co join it to the cuisines of the world. With this, I communicate with small group of chefs, both local and international, who are my friends, to help build a bridge between us and make us learn and share. Ultimately it is my dream to work with more African chefs who have this same mentality and see where we can help move this ship. Ciao!