This month’s installment combines two of my “feels.” Granted to actually eat here is a bucket list thing, or at the very least, a “when in Rome thing.” Nevertheless, I truly hope that this might create a moment when we find ourselves in Nairobi, Kenya engaged in the universal conversation of “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” and then we get stricken with the thought….aha! Remember what Toby was “having.” Let’s backup a bit first.
Show of hands: who remembers my love of Kenya? Those that raised, thank you, but I can’t see you, so I will assume everybody thrust their digits skyward. That’s right, I lived in Nairobi for three months and the experience changed my heart. But wait, I am not writing about some “local’s only” mom and pop in the heart of the city center; I am writing about an endeavor that has its roots right here in Pleasanton and Danville.
I was lucky enough in the first stage of my food and beverage career to be mentored by a genius Chef, Harold Sena-akoto. I was not “back of the house” (kitchen staff), but this man took the time to teach me food costs, wine pairings and management styles that I still use today to lead flocks.
Harold was the Executive Chef at Ruby Hill Country Club in Pleasanton. On a nightly basis he would create masterpieces for the same people with an infectious smile and energy that could not be rivaled. He was the exact opposite of the knife and temper wielding chefs that I had come to expect, and would later be personally subjected to.
Harold is a Nairobi native, and last year, after a stint heading up the food program at Choice Lunch and Choice Kitchen in Danville (another one of my articles), he packed up his girls (wife Rose and beautiful daughter) and headed back to his family’s plot in Nairobi Kenya to open his lifelong dream: 45 Degrees Kitchen.
45 Degrees Kitchen is a rugged structure built on an old poultry farm in Garden Estate. The rustic interior décor and flow to the natural African surroundings put the emphasis on nature, whereby gentle sounds from the outdoors form the backdrop to your evening. The tall Eucalyptus trees in the distance and rustic surroundings are comforting and put guests at ease, making it easy to focus on the work to be done for your dining experience. The fine dining restaurant features a sustainably and organically grown ingredient-driven menu, utilizing produce from the restaurant’s organic garden. The menu is influenced by modern Californian, provincial French and Italian cuisine.
Chef Harold is the type of man with an inviting aura that leaves everybody he comes in contact with feeling better about the interaction they just had. Along with his equally as positive energy wife Rose, they are doing what everybody longs to do at least once in their lives—they are taking their passion and creating something from the ground up.
45 Degrees hosts private events, caters off-site parties, does cooking classes and offers the outdoor/indoor African experience that was once reserved only for safari but from a culinary standpoint.
Our local loss has become Nairobi’s gain, and generally speaking, in any other circumstance I would feel the pangs of loss when a friend moves worlds away, however with the Sena-akotos I feel their presence daily through Facebook (www.facebook.com/45degreeskitchen) and know that they are simply giving me one more reason to return someday.
Bookmark this culinary adventure for your next trip to Africa and tell them Toby sent you, although you would get the same incredible hospitality no matter who you are.
Garden Estate, Nairobi Reservations 0705151086/0705150898