Chef Ramadhan Sindayigaya first competed at Gorilla Highlands Silverchef in 2017 at BirdNest Resort – Lake Bunyonyi (Uganda). Not only did Chef Rama take a top-five position, he contributed an unforgettable testimonial from the contestants’ adventure park experience.
When he applied for the 2018 edition of Silverchef he wasn’t an employee of Akagera Game Lodge anymore; he now worked at the Kigali Marriott (Rwanda). The hotel leadership had spotted him at BirdNest and given him an offer he couldn’t decline.
But when you work at such a big place, that comes with complications… Rama wasn’t the only Marriott chef who wanted to compete; four of his colleagues wanted the same! Rama’s bosses first wanted to prepare an internal competition to determine who would represent the Marriott but eventually decided to simply send Ramadhan.
They made the right choice.
While Rama normally works at the Marriott’s Italian restaurant, Cucina, at Gorilla Highlands Silverchef 2018 he was allocated another kitchen to compete, Iriba. This is how he remembers it:
After reaching Iriba I got my basket of ingredients. I was surprised by what was in the basket – the ingredients were very limiting. Only 4 cherry tomatoes , 4 Irish potatoes, 1 carrot… ‘Hhhhh,’ I shook my head. I took a few minutes to think of the ingredients, remembering my 9 years in professional kitchens. What to do? … Fusion dishes!
For the starter, a mixed salad, I put together an onion, carrot, mango, beetroot, cherry tomato, olive oil and parsley sauce as dressing. All of these ingredients are purely European. But it was garnished Japanese style, with basil and onion tempura (onion fried in frying butter).
My main course was a chicken and beef roulade. This was a combination of beef and chicken stuffed with vegetable mousse. I served my dish with Parisian potatoes and zucchinis, garnished with baby spinach. The sauce was a combination of Hollandaise and brown sauce.
Rama presented his competition entry to the international panel of judges: Prof Dr Wolfgang Thome (head judge), Chef Allan Mukasa, (Gorilla Highlands Silverchef 2017 winner), Yves Ngenzi (Rwanda Development Board), Sylvia Kalembe (Uganda Tourism Board) and André Ngoja-Ngoja (North Kivu Hotel Association, DRC). He ended at the very top of their list of quality cooking certificates receivers:
Ramadhan Sindayigaya, Marriott, Kigali (Rwanda) – Gorilla Highlands Silverchef 2018
Mukungu Akimu, Grand Legacy Hotel, Kigali (Rwanda) – best Ugandan chef
Manishimwe Jean Bosco, Lake Kivu Serena Hotel, Gisenyi (Rwanda)
Musasa Marcellin Tshite, Virunga Lodge, Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda)
Odeke Silver, Cephas Inn, Kabale (Uganda)
Jean Bosco Birindwa, Ihusi Hotel, Goma (DR Congo) – best Congolese chef
Otim Amos, Protea Hotel, Kampala (Uganda)
Emmanuel Murwanashyaka, ParkInn by Radisson, Kigali (Rwanda)
Sam Mbabazi, Bunyonyi Overland Resort, Kabale (Uganda)
Paul Mulyampiti, BirdNest Resort – Lake Bunyonyi (Uganda)
After the results were announced, Chef Allan took the time to personally explain to some of the contestants why they weren’t successful. Concerning Rama, on the other hand, he said there was never any dilemma: once the judges tasted his dishes they knew who would win!
Where does Chef Rama get such skills at only 31 years of age? He studied at Utali College (Kenya), gained professional experience at the Kigali Serena Hotel (Rwanda) then ran his own restaurant in Arusha (Tanzania), before returning to his motherland for a job at Manor Hotel in Kigali, followed by the one at Akagera Game Lodge. He is one of the few chefs who are comfortable both with pastries and hot kitchen cooking.
In September Chef Rama will travel to Lagos (Nigeria) to showcase his knowledge at the African Young Chef Competition. We are sure he will make the Gorilla Highlands region proud!
text: Miha Logar; video: Sharpe Ssewali