Barbecuing is a favorite indulgence for Jean Paul Iyakaremye, the Head Chef at Stella V.I.P, Kisment ,a place usually filled in the evenings with happy customers. At the age of 26, he has 5 years experience grilling steak, zingalo, fish and chicken to make customer’s favourite brochettes.
Eating and making brochette for many, has become a common odd job in busy areas around Kigali and in the country as well. As long as there are goats or cattle grazing, brochette will remain a constant delicacy within the Rwandan population.
Iyakaremye refers to himself as a barbecue chef of sorts.
“I grill some of the tastiest brochettes around the city and this is what brings many customers every evening,” he said.
Becoming a true barbecue chef however, requires more than being a good cook on the grill, it requires a mastery of grilling. Iyakaremye said he learnt his grilling skills at Mushumba Mwiza’s Catering Centre in Kigali.
On a normal day Iyakaremye starts work at 10:00 a.m. Under his supervision in the kitchen, cleaning is done.
Thereafter, someone is sent to shop for two goats from a place called ‘Sahara,’ not far away from Stella V.I.P and, another person buys about 30 chicken and 15 fish.
After slaughtering the goats Iyakaremye said, with the help of 3 people, the tender meat for making the brochettes is separated, cut into various cubes and pinned onto skewers before it’s kept in a refrigerator.
“As soon as a customer places an order, we start roasting,” he said.
According to Iyakaremye, learning to master the grill requires qualification, time and dedication.
“Not everyone is willing to go through the smoke and heat of roasting,” the chef said, “…it is a process that takes time.”
This chef loves his job and he is dedicated to it.
“I love my job because it helps me to develop; this makes me work hard towards giving good service to people since bad service drives away customers,” he added.
The making of brochettes:
This starts with seasoning the skewers with salt, and ‘ibrungo’ like Salsa tomate paste, onions and green pepper. Iyakaremye said the grilling process takes between 20- 30 minutes on a relatively large and blazing inbuilt charcoal grill.
According to Iyakaremye, the grill can accommodate 80 skewers and 12 chicken.
“While roasting, we regulate the heat so that the meat is not burnt on the outside while its raw inside,” said the Head Chef.
Customers are finally served hot skewers straight from the grill. On the Menu, the prices vary for various brochettes; Goat, Liver and Zingalo cost Rwf700, Fish costs Rwf1,500 while a whole fish and chicken- cost Rwf6000.
These are usually served with accompaniments like fries, salads and roasted potatoes or bananas.
Inhaling smoke is something that Iyakaremye has learnt to deal with. He said that while in the kitchen, chefs endure the heat, smoke and possibility of getting burnt. However, when it happens, they are given first aid and money for treatment.
Allowances and day offs are given to the chefs on a weekly basis; Iyakaremye’s day off is Thursday.
Even better, money for buying milk is given to the chefs at the end of the day to counteract the effects of inhaling smoke.
His salary, Iyakaremye shyly said “is enough to look after my family.”