From Garden to Plate - a Tasty Tale from Rwanda with Head Chef Vanie Padayachee

In this episode, we meet Singita’s Head Chef at Singita Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda. Vanie Padayachee chats to Sharon Machira, a journalist, content creator and Podcaster in Kenya, about a previous visit to spill the beans (and the gooseberries) about the on-site nursery called ‘Akarabo’ (meaning Little Flower) and the food philosophy here.

In an entertaining conversation, they unveil the plant-based menu with ingredients plucked from the lodge garden or sourced from female farmers, and what she does with tree tomatoes. Delicious raspberries, lettuce, green beans, rainbow carrots, and herbs are harvested from the Akarabo garden.

Rwanda’s volcanic soil is so fertile! The team built two mushroom huts which have yielded 1,000kg of oyster mushrooms over time! Other plentiful, year-round local ingredients are passion fruit, strawberries, dodo (spinach), and sugar cane which Vanie turned into cordial and ice cream. She didn’t stop there. She also created a tree tomato jam, which apparently can make you cry.

Sharon takes us down memory lane to the Singita Community Culinary School (SCCS) in Musanze, where she met the students and taught them a TikTok dance challenge! They’ve all become chefs. One student travelled to Cape Town for an internship with Chef Liam Tomlin at Chef’s Warehouse. In SCCS’s third year, applications from the immediate community grew from 100 (in the first year) to 400. This education changes the trajectory of their lives.

They discuss ingredients and sustainability in the kitchen. Vanie explains what activities are available to guests in the nursery – such as yoga, a pottery studio, picking your own ingredients, a running track, visiting the seamstress, or planting a tree.

Guests graze often, just like the buffalo, Golden Monkeys, and Mountain Gorillas. Vanie says we should eat simply, and let the ingredients become the storytellers!
21 Feb English South Africa Society & Culture · Places & Travel

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