American chef, Blaine Wilkinson has been working with Marriott Hotels for the last 13 years having joined at the age of 20. He currently works with Marriott Kigali Hotel. He talked to Sunday Magazine’s Minnie Karanja about his culinary experience.
In which countries have you worked as a chef?
I have worked in many countries where the Marriott brand has a presence. In the US I worked in California and Hawaii. In 2008 I moved to Beijing, China to open a Marriott Hotel for the Olympics.
This saw me spend 4 years in China. In 2012, I moved to Dubai to open a JW Marriott – the Marquis Dubai which is quite grand with 18 different restaurants. I have worked in many other projects including Ethiopia, Cairo and Jordan.
What is your culinary style?
I am Italian trained and enjoy working with seafood. Likely because of the fact that I was brought up in Florida surrounded by the ocean.
I enjoy a simplistic style that uses natural flavours; not over complicated dishes or fusion cuisine.
What would you say is your favourite dish to prepare?
My favourite things to cook are anything that has to do with barbequing or smoking.
What do you find fascinating in this hotel?
With four exquisite restaurants, at Kigali Marriot Hotel you can now indulge yourself, friends and family in good food with the variety of restaurants. Ranging from American, Asian to European dishes, the Soko restaurant which is all day buffet restaurant serves a variety of international dishes with a hint of local flavours.
It has 5 open kitchens – Asian, Indian tandoor, pastry, grill and cold station sections - which allow customers to see their food being prepared by the professional chefs.
Also Cucina, Italian for Kitchen, which is an all Italian restaurant, offers different hot and cold appetizers and desserts. Cucina has a large open pizza oven where customers can see their favourite pizzas being prepared. Ziko is for outdoor lovers with a large barbeque area which serves quick made burgers and brochettes.
Iriba serves snacks, shareable and big meals which are ready between 5, 10 and 20 minutes. This is ideal for customers staying in the hotel who may sometimes be in a hurry to go out and do not have the time to grab a proper meal.
Which of your favourite ingredient do you enjoy working with?
The local fruit and vegetables here in Rwanda are great. Eggplant, for example, is versatile. There are so many different things that one can use it for.
What would you recommend those, who would like to come to the Marriott Hotel to have a taste of what you’re offering here?
All our food is great we have very professional, skilled and passionate chefs. But if I have to recommend a dish I would say number one - the Gorilla Fries, and two – the Mutzig battered Fish and Chips.
Let me just explain briefly about the Gorilla Fries; think of nachos but made with French Fries. Crisp chips topped with local gouda cheese sauce, pili pili beef chili and our special house-made salsa and guacamole.