Reaching their peak: the chefs climbing Kilimanjaro for charity

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th July 2013
This August a group of the UK’s top hospitality industry figures led by Ashley Palmer-Watts will fly out to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free-standing mountain, in support of the charity Farm Africa. The group making the eight-day, 5,895-metre climb will comprise John Freeman, head chef of Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham; Paul Foster, head chef of Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk; and Paulo de Tarso, senior maître D’ at Bar Boulud in London and Ashley Palmer-Watts himself, head chef at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal as well as the team’s professional cameraman, Paul Gwilliams. The team are hoping to raise a combined £50,000 from the trek which they will donate to Farm Africa and which will go towards providing African farmers with techniques that will boost their harvests, sustain their natural resources and reduce their need for aid. The idea for the expedition originally came from Ashley Palmer-Watts. Ashley made a trip to Kenya last year with Farm Africa to experience day-to-day life and help out in a fish farming community in Kisumu near Lake Victoria in Kenya. “I was due to go back this year as a follow-up trip to see how they were doing,” said Ashley, “then someone mentioned doing the Kilimanjaro climb as part of the visit. I said it sounded like a great idea and that’s how it all came about.” According to Ashley, choosing the other members of the expedition was as much about enthusiasm as fitness, not that the team is taking the fitness side lightly. Ashley himself says he is cycling between 80-100 miles a week and all the other members are training hard. Paul Foster said: “I’m training five days a week at the moment. I’m excited and a bit nervous; I think when I stand at the foot of Kilimanjaro and see how big it is I’ll be even more so; but most of all I’m excited.” Farm Africa was established in 1985 by Sir Michael Wood, a British flying doctor working in Africa and David Campbell, a former field director for OXFAM in East Africa. The charity began by supplying goats to poor families in Kenya and Ethiopia. Today it has expanded to cover large parts of eastern Africa including South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia and covering all forms of agriculture from crops to livestock to fisheries and forestry. Ashley Palmer-Watts made his first contact with Farm Africa at the World’s Best Restaurant Awards in 2012. They asked if he would like to visit the community at Kisumu later that year and he agreed, thinking that he would be providing some form of cooking knowledge to make the farmers’ fish more sellable at market. The reality he found was much more different and much tougher than he expected. “It was much more about basic survival,” he said. “Joyce Kadenge, the woman whose family I stayed with, gets up at four in the morning and works all day. She only sits down to eat and drink. She goes to bed around eleven, has five hours sleep and starts again the next day. She does that 365 days a year, every year. If she doesn’t do it the maize won’t grow and the vegetables won’t grow.” During his stay Ashley helped Joyce’s family with the upkeep and harvesting of a pond in which to farm fish. “Just from that one pond Joyce’s three grandchildren will now be able to go to school,” said Ashley. “They have a very basic life and a little bit of investment goes a long way.” As part of this year’s Kilimanjaro trip Ashley and the team will re-visit Joyce’s family in Kenya before flying to Tanzania to make the six-and-a-half-day ascent and one-and-a-half-day descent of Africa’s highest mountain. “I’m looking forward to going back to the community just as much as I am to the climb,” said Ashley. “I think when we visit the community it will spur everyone on that much more to make it to the top of the mountain.” In order to raise their target of £50,000, the team are doing a number of fund raising activities such as auctioning off a meal to be cooked at the home of the highest bidder by Ashley, John Freeman and Paul Foster. Ashley will also be taking part in a 100-mile bike ride at the beginning of August and Paul is arranging a five-a-side football tournament for the end of July which will feature teams of chefs from some of the biggest restaurants in the country including The Fat Duck, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Restaurant Sat Bains. The Staff Canteen will be there to cover the event, so watch this space!   For more information and to sponsor the chefs visit the Farm Africa website   Feature image courtesy of: sbork
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th July 2013

Reaching their peak: the chefs climbing Kilimanjaro for charity