Hygiene is crucial for a career in the kitchen, says chef

The most important depart¬ment in any hotel is probably the kitchen that is respon¬sible for feeding mouths and keeping the clients coming back. The person in charge of a hotel kitchen is a chef de cuisine (head of kitchen) that has several duties and responsibilities. At Top Tower Hotel, Felix Gakwaya is that man. Collins Mwai spent time with him to find out more about walking the cuisine delight lane.
Gakwaya ensures food delight. Photo/ C. Mwai.
Gakwaya ensures food delight. Photo/ C. Mwai.

The most important depart¬ment in any hotel is probably the kitchen that is respon¬sible for feeding mouths and keeping the clients coming back. The person in charge of a hotel kitchen is a chef de cuisine (head of kitchen) that has several duties and responsibilities. At Top Tower Hotel, Felix Gakwaya is that man. Collins Mwai spent time with him to find out more about walking the cuisine delight lane.

What exactly are chefs paid to do?

As chef de cuisine, my work involves creating menus and their recipes and overseeing the preparation of the food. I oversee the preparation of orders made by customers and at times I also do it myself. I also oversee work done by cooks, waiters and waitresses. As a chef de cuisine, the rest of the kitchen staff look up to you.

What training does one require to be a chef?

I studied a culinary course at Apehote Secondary School and after that I had a two-year intensive practical training at CEFOCEC where I gained real experience and developed my skills. Some schools offer culinary courses in high school which I would recommend anyone who hopes to be a chef to take.

But for those who don’t have a chance like I had and are interested in the career, there is the Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC) that offers relevant training in culinary courses.

Other than academic qualifications, what other requirements come in handy?

The first one is cleanliness. It is ruthlessly observed in this line of work since you are dealing with food.  The profession also requires a lot of precision, it has no room for too many mistakes or second chances, once an order is made, the clock is ticking. You should be fast and precise.

It is good when you can work in a team setup because in the kitchen you don’t work in isolation. You need to be a good communicator to understand and give orders. You should be creative and be able to visualise a meal before you prepare it.

You have been in this line of work for a while.  What are the emerging trends?

The first one has to be equipment. There is always new equipment which at times changes the way we work. Another trend is that menus and their recipes are always changing. Nowadays they change even more due to customers’ preferences and unique tastes.

What are the special moments in your work?


For me it has to be every time I see the customers contented with my work. It takes a lot of precision and concentration to give them quality so I am glad every time some say they enjoyed my meal.

What could easily drive a chef up the wall?


When everybody looks up to you, it can be a little overwhelming.

What’s the chain of command in a kitchen?


There is the head chef (chef de cuisine) who reports to the restaurant supervisor. Below the chef there is an assistant chef de cuisine and then cooks.

How does one go up the ranks in this career?


It requires further training to get to higher levels in the line of work; experience too comes in handy as you learn to perform tasks that you were not taught in school and acquire new management skills. There are always new things to learn.

What if a Rwandan chef wanted to work elsewhere in the world, is the job universal?

It is, as long as you have experience and can work in a team setting, you can be accommodated anywhere in the world.

What could cause the fall of a chef? (Not literary)


Not being a good team leader, either poor communication or poor organisational skills will affect the performance of a chef.

Being unhygienic is another easy way out of the career. It is also good to conduct evaluations on how you performed on a given day, if you don’t; you will not know where you stand and where to improve.

Advice to anyone interested in walking the kitchen/culinary delight line?


I would advise anyone with an aim of becoming a chef to be patient when learning. It takes time and a lot of information searching to be good at it.

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