It was a sunny morning on September 6, when my colleague and I walked into one of the new eateries in the city, Anda Kigali. This new place is located in Kimihurura, on 30 KG 566 St, Kigali, behind the Parliament. Upon arrival, we were received by the Zimbabwean-born owner of the restaurant, Treasure Makwanise, with whom I was supposed to have an interview on his life journey. The jolly and amiable chef directed us to the reception where we were served a welcome refreshment; iced tea flavoured with pineapple and lemongrass. Certainly, this came in handy on the scorching hot day. Anda Kigali is a simple yet sophisticated place decorated with artistic and tasteful paintings, complemented by beautiful lighting, while the classical music in the background makes it even cosier. Makwanise gave us a tour of his restaurant and explained to us the operations and themes at the restaurant. As he was explaining, my eyes kept running around and what caught my attention the most was the modernized open kitchen that allows diners to witness the operations in the kitchen and see where the food they eat comes from. Dressed casually in a white t-shirt matched with white pants, the 32-year-old Zimbabwean national also gave us a hint on wine testing. The waiters were smartly dressed in white shirts and black pants. Soon after, we dived into the interview. Born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe, Makwanise’s story is one of courage and resilience and a true definition of being self-made. Life itself did not start off well for him from the onset. Like his name suggests, he was treasured because he was the eighth child of his mother, who had eight kids with about three different husbands. When he showed up, like the treasured boy his mum was looking for, he was named ‘Treasure’. However, life was not as treasurable as his name suggested. He was born in a poor household where even dreaming to be a chef in top hotels around the world was a wild dream. “We didn't have much when I was growing up, we were poor and my dream job was to actually be a footballer,” says Makwanise who says that up to now he is still athletic and plays football once in a while. He also thought of being a security agent whenever he saw how tough presidential guards were, but also with his love for music, he thought he would be a disc jockey by nature. Never did he at one time see himself as a chef. When it came to food, he never thought beyond what to eat the next day. “When I was growing up, there wasn’t much of a variety on our plate, which I understood very well because of our family resources,” says Makwanise. Becoming a chef At a tender age of 16, he left Zimbabwe to South Africa, to make ends meet. Life was not easy back home. Faced with many life challenges emanating from the family, he decided to try out life on his own terms. It was a rebellious decision he took, having grown up in a troubled family, compounded by an abusive father and an alcoholic mother. When she passed away, he found himself facing off with his elder siblings whom he tried to hold accountable. Makwanise illegally migrated to South Africa, in Cape Town where he lived for four years - that really shaped who he became to be later. “Life was quite hard. It wasn't easy staying on the streets, just waiting for people who are eating in places like KFC to have some left overs thrown in the garbage bin, which I would scavenge for my own meal,” he recalls. For four months, he struggled in the city but in 2009, he was lucky to get his first job as a steward or cleaner in One and Only Cape Town, which at the time was doing pre-opening. “It is from here that I was exposed to the industry. We are talking about a kid who grew up from nothing and straight to his first job in a five-star establishment, which is this massive resort aspiring to be a 6-star facility, the first one of its own in Africa,”Makwanise says. Finding himself in the kitchen of such a facility left him even more confused, asking himself how he ended up there but the more time he spent, the more he admired what chefs and cooks were doing. “I felt like I was in a theatre. You could swing doors open by pushing them and walk in to see everybody dressed in white and those small toques on their heads, like they are doctors,” he says. Everything captivated him. The speed, the pressure, the way they did things, shouting at each other and other things which made him curious and intrigued to know how food gets to the table and the effort involved. Soon, Makwanise offered to volunteer in the kitchen, whenever his cleaning shifts ended. His plan was to support chefs as they went about their work while learning the craft at the same time. While at it, he got himself someone he describes as a wonderful mentor, Jason Miller, who until now he attributes his career to. In a country where he was being rejected by fellow blacks and facing Xenophobia, and coming from a country which had banished white people from their land, Makwanise did not see himself being helped by a white man. Such is the irony of life. It is for the same reason that he decided to take the opportunity he got seriously, investing passion, determination, dedication and creativity. Soon enough, his efforts were recognised and he was promoted from cleaning the kitchen to Permanent Assistant to the Chef. His stubbornness to do things differently and curiosity to learn more caught the eye of his bosses. He was given two weeks of probation and when they noticed he was doing well, he was promoted to chef. “They really made me who I am. They gave me a wonderful opportunity that I couldn’t imagine my whole life,” he says, adding that during that period, he was promoted thrice. After four and a half years, he decided to look elsewhere, heading to the Middle East, getting his fast stint in Abu Dhabi, UAE at Viceroy Hotel before thinking of taking his adventure further, working as a chef on cruise liners, made the trip around the world and returned to Dubai. This allowed him to expand his network and connections and in 2016, he ended up in Seychelles at a private property known as Frégate Private Island, an experience he says he enjoyed the most. As fate would have it, his mentor, Jason Miller, who had also earlier left One and Only Cape Town, returned to make few reforms at the facility and in doing so he called back some of the old team members, including Makwanise. Coming to Rwanda, feeling at home Few months into the job again, he got a promotion. One and Only was opening a property in Rwanda in Nyungwe Forest National Park and he was considered for a position of an Executive Chef and that is how he ended up in Rwanda. It was a whole new challenge to him, given the tasks and responsibilities he had to perform in a foreign country where most of the people he had to work with were from a francophone background. “There were a lot of challenges, from language barrier, the location of the facility but I managed to manoeuvre my own way into the market.” “So far, I think Rwanda has been my favourite spot of my career. It's really helped me to be Treasure, to be who I am. It allowed me to feel free internally and externally,” Makwanise says. When Covid-19 broke out, he left One and Only Nyungwe but did not leave Rwanda because of the opportunities the country offered, including starting his own business, despite being a foreigner. Though he is yet to make a major breakthrough financially, he is grateful that Rwanda has given him a chance to do something for himself and the personal freedom to express himself through cooking. Though his first venture with a partner did not pick up, Makwanise set out to establish Anda Kigali and for six weeks now, the restaurant is promising to be among the most sought after in Kigali. Makwanase believes that in simplicity lies sophistication. His work is not classified as high end or anything but rather something built on passion and bringing together people who share the same determination and history. His dream is to make clients emotionally connect with the place and come back for the same reason and it seems to be working. Today you can’t walk into Anda Kigali and order without a prior booking. The restaurant can only accommodate not more than 24 people at a time. For Makwanise, cooking is not just an industry but rather something satisfying in many ways and young people should not be discouraged if they feel passionate about it. Makwanise says Rwanda presents a big opportunity to young people because it is a country in focus and many tourists are coming in. The culinary industry is littered with opportunities. Today, he has a team of 32 people, including himself, who he considers his own family. Makwanise hopes his story can inspire young people who feel held back by situations.