This is the third Silverchef 2016 blog post. The first covered preparations and chef arrival in a photo story form, the second focused on competition results and the following writeup is the time for the bigger picture, reflection and appreciation for all competitors. Tomorrow’s last article in the series will present the competition winner, Levi Kato.
“This meeting was a good idea, otherwise people could be bored while waiting through the afternoon shift of chefs,” said Sylvia Kalembe, senior marketing officer at Uganda Tourism Board, after a two-hour sharing with hotel/lodge owners, managers and media people.
“Sylvia, this meeting was the main point of organising Silverchef,” laughed Miha Logar, the Gorilla Highlands project leader.
The Gorilla Highlands concept relies on bringing people together, building friendships and fostering informal cooperation. As a team promoting the region we are much stronger than any individual efforts could ever be. Is there a more pleasant reason to gather than to sample the best our kitchens can produce?
And then there are the chefs… Stuck in hot, stressful places, meeting deadlines all the time, only paid attention to when something goes wrong. At Silverchef 2015 in Kisoro they were, in a way, supporting cast entertaining foreign correspondents but at Silverchef 2016 in Kabale they were the stars they should be.
Alright, their accommodation wasn’t exactly first class; half of them stayed in simple rooms, the rest camped in tents that were at least fully equipped and private. But that decision was not made to save money. Gad Inn, a green and pleasant location with an atmosphere of a mountain lodge, was perfectly positioned next to Cephas Inn. Most importantly, it allowed everyone – chefs, judges and organisers – to be together.
“It’s great to see people with different brains coming together. Some chefs went to good schools, you can learn a lot from them, get exposure and know better for next time compete,” said Jonan Tumusiime of Mahogany Springs.
Competitors visibly enjoyed each other’s company and appreciated the two trips organised for them. On Friday evening they went for a walking trip of Kabale, on Sunday for a canoe trip on Lake Bunyonyi with a stop on Bushara Island. A sponsorship contribution by Kazinga Tours, a company devoted to giving back to the community and celebrating 10 years of business next month, allowed us to treat them to a great Friday dinner and ample drinks on Saturday eve.
“We believe that the Gorilla Highlands initiative gives courage and hope to the tourism players, that is why we decided to support Silverchef,” said Felex Musinguzi of Kazinga Tours.
Not only did Kazinga Tours commit to helping next year again, Eric Rukinirwa of La Palme in Musanze invited all present to bring Silverchef 2017 to the hotel he manages. The location is perfect: it underscores that the Gorilla Highlands idea is expanding into Rwanda and has a truly spacious kitchen.
Cephas Inn was really helpful this year, nothing was too much for them to do, but six competing chefs per shift proved to be nearly too many. When the hosts had another event to facilitate in the afternoon, cooking utensils became sporadically hard to get.
The other issue was the selection of ingredients. Competitors had received an email with the details of what would be allowed and available some weeks earlier but not everyone seemed to have seen it. Next time it will be printed and distributed to them, and to the judges.
Late arrival of some of the judges was a problem that needs to be eliminated in the future. That made the pre-comeptition meeting shorter than it should have been, with rules and arrangements not clear enough. Judges tried to give chefs direct feedback, what was an improvement over 2015 but has to be further expanded.
“The general quality was really impressive. I was surprised by how people who should be competitors, like from lodges across the road, came together as friends and made a nice atmosphere,” said Sean Zweifler, one of the five judges who have to be commended for devoted work and good will. Not only did they volunteer their time, most of them arrived to the venue at their own cost. The organisers will have to do a better job in the future assuring appropriate financial support for the competition.
On the other hand, limited external financial backing proved yet again that Gorilla Highlands can stand on its own feet; Silverchef 2016 was fully financed through participant fees of $50. The prospects of Silverchef becoming an annual must-attent social event for the tourism fraternity of Rwanda and Uganda look bright.