This smart Entrepreneur is leading Kenyans back to their kitchens one meal at a time

She imagined a world where Kenyans of all walks of life would motivate each other to cook their favorite meals network and spread the love and joy that comes with food.

Every meal time was a celebration and her love for Kenyan dishes was born. She spent hundreds of hours in their kitchen and with the guidance of her mum, Yuanita Okwafi she mastered the art of cooking several Kenyan meals.

When she later moved to Nairobi city to settle down and work as a banker she was alarmed by the rise in lifestyle diseases and the habit of thousands of Kenyan families giving up home cooking for fast food joints to buy ready-made food instead of cooking them.

She knew she had to do something.

Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa recently sat down with the former banker turned entrepreneur with vast interests in the food and real estate industry over some delicious Chicken Pamstyle to get to know what makes her tick and how she is quietly leading millions of Kenyans back to their Kitchens one meal post at a time.

“I started my Spice Land catering firm by catering for a few relatives and the urge grew so what I did was I decided I am going to use food to reach more people, to motivate people, I just wanted to do something satisfying after working for the bank for a long time” she said.

Pamellah is a mentor and the founder of one of the most popular and active Kenyan Facebook groups, Let's Cook Kenyan Meals which she founded in 2013.

“So what I noticed is Kenyans love food, this was something which was going to make me meet many people in my life, so I decided to start something which was missing, a programme that would bring Kenyans back to their Kitchens because what I noticed was most Kenyans were eating from the Supermarkets and fast food joints, you find a whole family on a Sunday afternoon going out to the Supermarket to buy food and I didn’t think that was right”

She imagined a world where Kenyans of all walks of life would motivate each other to cook their favorite meals network and spread the love and joy that comes with food.

A place where people with the passion for cooking would meet in a fun care free environment to share ideas, try different things and not depend on written recipes.

“So one afternoon as we were eating our packed lunches in the office with a friend of mine I decided I was going to create a group called Lets Cook Kenyans Meals, so it was a big joke in the beginning but slowly more and more people became interested and the group grew, grew and grew and that is where we are now”

Since that slow afternoon when she clicked FINISH on her computer screen the group has grown exponentially to now having 1,140,980 members and growing.

In 2015, having seen the kind of impact the page was having and wanting to do something she actually loved, she quit her banking career to focus fully on the page and became an entrepreneur.

“I stopped working in 2015, when the page had about 78,000 members but since then the page has continued to grow until sometimes we do up to 5,000 new members a day so I involved my spouse to be the other admin so we are just two”

Let’s Cook Kenyan Meals members are encouraged to cook and share photos of their meals on the page for other members to compliment and learn how to cook the same in the process, the page also organizes several cooking competitions for members to meet, network and learn from each other.

“We cook and share our pictures online, where possible we share recipes, we organise food competitions like the Chapati challenge, the pilau challenge, matumbo challenge etc. So we organize challenges to try and get more and more people into cooking, when we get a new recipe we put it in the group files for more people to use”

Through Pamellah’s dedication and her love for food, Let’s Cook Kenyan meals has enriched many Kenyan household menus and encouraged families to try out new recipes, something they had never thought about leave alone dreamt of.

“I remember the first meal I did was sausage stew and most Kenyans wondered how can you make stew out of sausages? But I shared how it is done and more and more people tried it and fell in love with it, now it is a hit, many families are cooking it and that is what many toddlers are actually eating right now”

Since creating the page more than four years ago, Pamellah is happier than she has ever been, she has met new people and keeps changing lives with every meal post, her life couldn’t be better.

Her impeccable cooking skills has seen her being sought by young people who want to try their hand in the food industry and she occasionally conducts training on how to cook different kinds of foods to ensure the ‘going back to the kitchen’ revolution never dies.

“The highest moments for me because I am also a mentor is when you pick somebody who has nothing and you train them, I sometime train them for free and they get out there and they are making a name for themselves, they are feeding their families and doing all sorts of things I think those are the highest”

Many hands make light work and Let's Cook Kenyan meals knows this and the group has been holding charity events and going out of their way to assist and comfort fellow Kenyans affected by one tragedy or another such as the Garissa Terrorist Attack, Flooding at Reuben Kwa Njenga Slums, Huruma Building Collapse, Kilifi Drought, Fire at Langata Kijiji to provide food and financial aid.

“The other thing I am proud of is when our members come together for charity events like right now we have adopted Bahati boys rehabilitation center whereby we go and visit and enjoy quality time with them, during Easter and Christmas festivities for instance we make sure we visit them and ensure they go to school and when there is no fees or food we join hands and raise it for them”

Just like any other social media group however because of the power of anonymity and members coming from a society full of all manner of people, Lets Cook Kenyans Meals being one of the biggest and most popular groups out there, is not devoid of characters up to no good and it is upon Pamellah to protect members from them.

“They are challenges, we try to approve every post but the number is high and it is an extremely active group but you see we have to go through each and every post to make sure that it is line with what we want to achieve, so sometimes you find that there are people who try to con others, you have fake caterers, fake products, you have people who are impersonating others so all those you have to carefully check because what happens is people would be saying I was in Lets Cook Kenyan meals and the caterer there was not genuine and he conned me so you try and trim out all those people, you keep weeding I think that is the hardest part”

Because of the sheer task of sifting through the posts and to ensure none slips through the cracks, members are also encouraged to notify the admin of any post which violets the group policy by either tagging them or reporting it and after every two hours Pamellah then goes through all the reported posts and takes the appropriate action.

“When we had politics, the hardest part was the tribal comments, I remember somebody was saying Lets Cook Kenyan Meals is the only group which has one tribe, food, other groups were very tribal but we tried to stick to what we know, cooking Kenyan meals and spreading the love”

In the next five years Pamellah wants to ensure not only more and more Kenyans head back to their Kitchens but also take the Kenyan cuisine international while financially empowering their members in the process.

“In the next five years I want to see more than 50 per cent of Kenyans go back to their Kitchens that is my main goal and to also get more and more people fully engaged, stop people from looking for jobs by creating and facilitating businesses, matching people with skills, build business networks and becoming self-sufficient”

“Right now we are doing a lot of training in income generating activities like soap making, practical catering courses all across the country starting from Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, etc. we want Lets Cook Kenyan Meals group to be in a position of being a one stop shop where you will get what you need food wise and get members empowered by getting some sort of income”

Let’s Cook Kenyan Meals group has become a major and fertile advertising ground for most food and kitchen equipment manufacturers. We have been able to run promotions on food products to improve product knowledge and increase market share. Promotions run have been for Ecozoom East Africa, Jikokoa, Pretty Home Interior Decor and various spices.

The best success story was of Chibundiro, a natural Kenyan mix of spices which is literally currently flying off the shelf.

Pamellah used and endorsed the product and right now is the brand ambassador pushing the sales of this product both locally and internationally through the group. Sales have tripled for this product and her vision is that soon it will be in every Kenyan kitchen.

She however hopes to work with more companies to help them achieve their sales goals.

And so as we head to Pamellah’s kitchen to devour some mouthwatering Chicken Pamstyle she had prepared for yours truly, I can’t help but feel this is what life ought to be chasing your dreams and doing what you love just like Pamellah.

“It makes me happy that I am doing something which is changing lives and I hope I am changing lives positively, I don’t really care much how popular the group is what makes me proud is that at least I am doing something and changing lives”


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