Sa-far-i-way from home by Kevin Barron Executive Chef Ole Sereni Hotel Kenya

Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 20th December 2010
Kevin Barron is Executive Chef at Ole Sereni Hotel Kenya, Kevin shares his overseas journey, offering a Chefs' eye view, of the life of an Ex-Pat in Kenya I was approached by an agent friend of mine who said he had  (in his words) an interesting one off opportunity for a chef to get involved in a 5 star project and open it, I asked a few questions and the opportunity sounded good. It was to open a new 5 star hotel in Kenya, I did lots of Googling and talked with friends and eventually agreed my CV could go to the CEO of the company, soon after I got a call asking me if I would like to interview for the position in London at this point I wasn't sure and it didn't feel right in leaving the position I was in and took myself out of the running. I carried on I'm my position at the time happy as I was but always thinking about my next move, a few months after the initial contact the CEO of the company called me again and asked why I hadn't pursued the position and if I was in a position to talk, we agreed to talk and proceed to have an hour and a half interview I suppose in want of a better word over the phone me in UK him in Kenya, the interview finished with Mr Bertano saying OK we need to meet face to face when are you available this was a Summers Wednesday by the way, I was off the next week on the Monday, so the CEO Mr Bertano says to me ok ill fly back to UK meet me in London!! We met in Euston for a further 2 hours and went through the whole 2 pages of questions I had and when things seemed to be getting serious, he handed me a 2 year contract and asked me to read through it, Some of the questions were work based, some on what happens when I (hopefully) get a day off, questions like"¦"¦"¦"¦a few I can remember from the time, what is the produce like, the standard of cooks, will they all be Kenyan, am I able to bring in other ex-pats in key positions i.e. pastry and my number 2, how can we make the food costs, what is there to do in Nairobi, security was and still is a big issue you really are in a wild country even now 2 years things still happen and you think sod this I'm on that flight home to what I used to think was civilization, I had never done anything out of the comfort zone of working in the UK and all sorts start to go through your head, what equipment will I have is it comparable to the UK will I really be able to produce to the kind of standard I had worked to before, will mky chefs speak English, where and what would we live in, Parts of Nairobi are very very modern out of the city and out in the wilds yes its all different some people even ask if we live in a house!!  now im intelligent enough to know some sacrifices would have to be made but if I couldn't cook to any kind of level would the benefits make up for it?? No I really didn't think so, but I could see other brands doing well in Nairobi"¦..Fairmont, Hilton, Intercontinental to name a few so why couldn't i/we I had done well in UK could I get noticed more and raise my profile in Nairobi yes I was told. Budgets were worrying me as the need for a good return was stressed how much is beef fillet?? Can we get fish some things would need to be imported, could I afford the luxuries that some take for granted in the UK, also that little doubt in the back of your head"¦"¦"¦.am I actually a good enough chef and manager to really do this, well I guess we would find out. The contract revealed a fairly large tax free salary, a car and a driver, a large house with pool in the compound, at this stage Ania and I were renting a small but cosy 2 bedroom house in Buckinham not far from where I worked close to my family and we had friends in the town, plus the new deal had all our bills paid, flights back to UK each year, nearly 6 weeks holiday time, and the normal expat medical etc etc, a real chance to save money which to me was also key as a few years before I went through what so so many in our chosen industry path go through the dreaded "˜chefs divorce' Ania and I were real happy and had moved in together and were happy so the chance to build a good future for us both was obviously in the back of my mind Now to quote the old cliché "its not all about the money" for me it wasn't there would be no way I would go if I couldn't produce good food albeit with different ingredients and cultures but don't we all still thrive on learning well I do, and also I had to be able to build a good team capable of doing it! I told him clearly I would need time to talk to my family and my girlfriend at the time (she became my fiancée on a little island in the Indian ocean on boxing day but that's later)  as she would come with me and wouldn't need to work with the package on offer, I would need to talk to people in the industry and my friends and my best buddy, Steve who I knew above all would tell me straight. I got home to Buckingham from London with all sorts of feelings, excitement, fear, doubt all sorts, I remember so well Ania was home and I said well they have offered it to me already, her reaction was to burst into tears!! She was also scared and I think confused after all my questions had kind of been answered but hers well not even close!! I think it took her quite a while to come round we talked and talked and it hit me the size of what we were doing, we were going to move far far away from all we knew, to people we didn't know, to a place years behind where we lived!! After a good couple of weeks of umming and aarghing we decided to take the plunge hell what was the worst that could happen we could always just fly back, well let me tell you"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦"¦..
Kevin Barron Executive Chef | Ole Sereni Hotel
Nairobi | KENYA
Kevins Blog

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 20th December 2010

Sa-far-i-way from home by Kevin Barron Executive Chef Ole Sereni Hotel Kenya