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The chefs came with herbs and spices only. They knew they would need to use a pre-arranged set of ingredients, including rabbit meat. They knew they would have to make a starter and a main course, one of them vegetarian. They knew no big prizes were awaiting them.
Actually, it was not primarily about competing. It was about celebrating the culinary excellence in the Gorilla Highlands region, about fostering cooperation and camaraderie, about promoting our region.
That last goal was sorted out the moment Silverchef became the grand finale of the Gorilla Highlands Press Trip for foreign correspondents. Nine participants from America, England, Japan, Kenya, Sweden and Uganda were to spend a week covering Lake Bunyonyi, Echuya Forest Reserve, Lake Mutanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and then come to Kisoro’s Travellers Rest Hotel for Silverchef.
One of them, the Gorilla Highlands #1 photographer Marcus Westberg, ended up replacing Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome on the judging panel – Uganda’s #1 travel blogger had injured his ankle. The other four judges were Ruth Ndyabahika (International Community of the Banyakigezi), Sylvia Kalembe (Uganda Tourism Board), Kiiza Kimbugwe (Flair Magazine, New Vision) and Adam Caris (chef and anthropologist).
Yet this is not the story of nine media professionals or five judges, this is the story about ten cooking experts coming together for the very first time.
The chefs impressed, all of them. They were from Buhoma Community Haven Lodge, Bunyonyi Overland Resort, Cephas Inn, Chameleon Hill Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Coffee Pot, Gorilla Valley Lodge, Mount Gahinga Lodge, Mahogany Springs and Travellers Rest Hotel.
They competed in two shifts and were marked based on taste, presentation, originality, time management and kitchen management. It wasn’t easy for the judges to come up with the Top-5 list, but this is what it looked like (in alphabetical order):
Banis Ahimbisibwe (Gorilla Valley Lodge, Rushaga)
Kasim Safi (Mount Gahinga Lodge, Ntebeko)
Levi Kato (Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Nkuringo)
Moses Niwagaba (Chameleon Hill Lodge, Lake Mutanda)
Sam Agaba (Buhoma Community Haven Lodge, Buhoma)
These gentlemen all received certificates, but there was also an especially-made silver chef’s hat to be given to the best of the best… The recipient of this prize was not difficult to define, however: Banis Ahimbisibwe was the top choice of four of the judges, and the the second choice of the fifth.
But as we said: this was much more than a cooking competition. It was an interesting day and a lovely evening, a feast enriched by a Batwa “Pygmy” musical performance, an event proving yet again that the Gorilla Highlands is so much more than mountain gorillas.
See you next time, at Cephas Inn in Kabale, in April/May 2016 – with chefs from Rwanda invited as well!
Silverchef 2015 was made possible by UNDP/UNWTO/UTB (accommodation and feeding for participants), Travellers Rest Hotel (hosting), lodges (budget for ingredients) and Edirisa (budget top-up)