How to Get Top Chefs Onto a Remote Lake

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It’s a funny life, ain’t it? Here I am, organising a cooking competition — but being too busy to taste many of the savoury treats. And here I am, still, having my dearest friends assembled for Lake Burera Active Cruise, a special adventure on a lake I love — but staying behind at the hotel because important guests need to be catered for.

Full 4-minute version of the Lake Burera Top 5 Attractions video

The meals are beautiful, and professionally prepared and presented by the very best chefs of our region… I have moments to smell, salivate and snack, but can’t sit and enjoy the full meal. 

The people are fabulous, and our stories worth telling:

Charlotte Beauvoisin: the star of my 8th video episode (see above) and a special gem! We met for the first time at the 2017 edition of Gorilla Highlands Silverchef where she graciously helped our coverage on Facebook and then added a post on her famous blog Diary of A Muzungu in 2018 … a must read. Our relationship has since blossomed and we are currently enjoying a sweet sisterhood. A week ago we jointly launched our digital marketing training in Musanze and are excited to host more around Rwanda. But that’s not all! She is guilty of inspiring me to become more of a food and travel blogger. (This will be work in progress; if I turn out to be lousy you will know who to blame.) 

The Katagayas: not friends, family! Becky who is a renown radio and TV personality in Kampala left her busy schedule to come to GH Silverchef. It was the weekend of their anniversary so her lovely husband flew in the morning of the event to surprise her. Sweet souls.

Aline Kiberinka: I befriended her while I worked at RTV a few years ago and we immediately clicked. Her passion and style simply screamed. In a rather quiet and sometimes conservative workplace it was always refreshing to run into her. She was hosting a food show and was quick to say yes to judging the 2017 GH Silverchef. Then she went to study in China and returned this year to play a key role as a spokesperson for the event to the Rwandan media.

Eddy “Benji” Atum: When we met I had an all-women PR company in Uganda called Easy Creations. He helped me run a program that created a safe space for young girls to be mentored by their favourite female celebrities. Since then he has been my go-to for all things Izy. I’m praying he never dies from my crazy ideas.

Steve Odeke: We got to know each other while working for my favorite radio station Bob FM, an American country music station in Kampala. We joked and laughed most of our meetups away. We still do!

… If you allow me to mention but a few members of the Lake Burera-bound gang. I would do anything for these people. And they would do as much for me (I like to think). That’s why they came to my new hometown of Musanze at the end of October to grace the event I had poured my heart into (and if they did it for the food, who would blame them?!).

The Sunday fam(iliarisation) trip that always follows the Saturday competition is not some semi-important add-on to GH Silverchef. Nope. It’s our time to give back to the chefs, the unsung heroes kept in hot kitchens who quietly define such an important part of anyone’s travel experience. It almost made me cry to read the WhatsApp message from Chef Bizimana summarised in the video above… He also wrote “I‘ve been wishing to reach Lake Burera and Lake Ruhondo since I was born but finally you made it happen for me!” Imagine!

Chefs and boats. Cooking and hiking. Food and travel. I believe I have finally found the right intersection of my interests, something worth focusing on… Amusingly and tellingly it all began with a similar combo three years ago: buses and snacks.

I was at the right time on the right bus, traveling from Kampala to Kigali, when a gentleman intercepted us in Kabale. He jumped in, called my name, dropped an aid package filled with food treats onto my lap — and vanished. (How he got to know I was on the move and which bus to storm is a conversation for another time.) I remember feeling so heart-warmed… How caring, how sweet, how gentle, how kind! An inner voice echoed with me for the rest of the journey… This simple gesture left me with a happy heart, a full tummy, a big smile — and turned my life around.

Not so long ago some friends of mine would mention I could make a good travel writer. I laughed at the thought. All I could think of was all the reasons I couldn’t. Pushing myself physically is not my forte. Just getting me to leave my comfy bed and take risks with new things had always been almost impossible for me. But my partner is persistent… It’s almost like I’m a different person now.

And while most bloggers write about others‘ creations, I’m a very hands-on person. This means I’m drawn to creating what I feel is missing before I write about it! (Even if it costs me money, ha!)

GH Silverchef is an amazing and scary testament to that. This opportunity for the region to celebrate our food culture and for industry leaders to get to know each other is unfortunately also an opportunity for us to get hit financially… In our part of the world raising funds for something meaningful can be tricky. Put together a music concert and sponsorship won’t be a problem — talk about the poorest of the poor and charity money will materialise — but organise an unconventional event with a deeper mission that transcends country borders — and you have a steep hill to climb.

Still, I’m determined to find partners with a broader vision. After five years of organising a relatively small-scale event we are gearing up for an ‘All Stars’ edition in 2020. The top three finalists from previous years will be automatically qualified and those brave enough to face them will be welcome to submit their applications. To take it a step further, other African countries will be welcome to compete as well.

… So, will our Gorilla Highlands Silverchef assume a continental scope instead of promoting a specific region, the Gorilla Highlands? Not at all. We we will remain rooted in our home soil by having the grand finale at the very same place, at the Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel in Musanze!

So far we have been changing the venue each year. We have done it in Kisoro (2015), Kabale (2016), Lake Bunyonyi (2017), Kigali (2018) and Musanze (2019). Thrice in Uganda, twice in Rwanda — and we have always wanted to bring the project to DR Congo just the conditions haven’t been conducive yet.

But we feel we have found the perfect host. The Five Volcanoes venue was so ideal, the team was so devoted and the owner was so generous that we have no reason to move anywhere else. On the other hand, my dream is to bring the competition closer to chefs with local preliminaries (it’s easier and cheaper to attend something in your home area) in different countries and in front of TV cameras.

In short, if you are running a marketing, PR or CSR budget: adopt me please! 😂

text: Isabelle Masozera; video: Adventures with Izy