Lord Erroll’s executive chef Isaac Arunga shares his secret to award winning food
Isaac Arunga shares his culinary secrets and what it takes to be a top chef.
The exclusive eatery is obscured by embassies, consulates and high end Kiambu dwellings deep in the concrete jungle of Gigiri.
Lord Erroll pays homage to a British aristocrat who came to Kenya in 1924- Josslyn Victor Hay, the ‘Earl of Erroll’- who was mysteriously executed in 1941 after he became the Military Secretary of Kenya.
Lord Erroll’s executive chef was introduced in the Highlander Bar with comfortable Victorian armrests and ambience from a 20s smoke room. It was dimly lit and warm- the fragrance of fresh lilies cocooning guests.
Chef Arunga joined us shortly after drinks were served. A tall man with a bespoke beard enveloping a clean shaven head. The culinary expert was surprisingly soft spoken and bafflingly camera shy. But it was clear that he knew his food.
Towering over the seats with a crisp white chef’s shirt and a black apron, the chef looked vaguely familiar. He was a staple on Kenyan television on KBC’s Chakula Bora. He has been in the dining industry for 14 years and based at Lord Erroll since February 2017.
Arunga enjoys cooking, more so than anything. His specialty is fine dining- particularly slow cooked meals. His clients’ preferred favourite is salmon. A ray finned fish that looks as pink as it is delicious.
It’s difficult to fathom one man being capable of so much culinary excellence considering Lord Erroll’s extensive menu of gourmet meals ranging from seafood to vegetarian meals to decadent desserts and a very extensive wine list.
“It takes dedication,” Arunga explained, “A chef has to go above and beyond. You also can’t do it without your team. You have to have passion.”
As passion goes without saying, Arunga had to have had a lot of experience with food. His travels have allowed him to encounter all kinds of meals in the world. From things as bizarre as frog’s legs in France to sushi bars in Tokyo.
“Yeah, frog’s legs do taste like chicken,” he insisted.
His favourite food destination is Scandinavia and of course, France. But he has cooked in high end restaurants in the Burj Khalifa, the Ritz in London and Sarova Stanley in Nairobi. Arunga is not all about epicurean food. He also has a discerning appreciation for the simple and kienyeji foods.
“I love mutura and matumbo,” he confessed. He has also tried kienyeji vegetables from other African countries. It’s easy to believe that the enthusiasm for food from a chef can be transferred to a diner simply by the experience of the eating great food. Something last week’s Nairobi Restaurant Week was hoping to achieve.
Lord Erroll is a four star restaurant that specialises in French cuisine. Evergreen gardens encircle the buildings leaving patrons in a lush bushy haven that allows them to enjoy their meals in natural splendour. It has a distinctively aristocratic vibe that gives it a bit of an uppity reputation that isn’t entirely deserved as it is more affordable than you would expect. With full course meals for one ranging from Sh1, 600 to Sh4, 000.
Their wine list is every enthusiast’s dream- especially if they have a French preference.
Water features, flower gardens, concierge service and free nuts with cocktails- the Lord Erroll seems to be a dining experience that everyone should try. At least going by the chef behind the grill as BI- SSA was unable to explore the restaurant further.
Arunga also confessed that if he wasn’t a chef he would probably be a Formula 1 driver. When pressed on whether he would be opening his own restaurant in the next couple of years, he wasn’t coy on the fact that he prefers only the cooking side of things.
It was hard to believe considering Kenyans believe that food always sells. However he capitulated, “Never say never.”
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