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Chef Stephen Karanja

At first contact, nothing springs into mind regarding the highly decorated Stephen Karanja, who is the Executive Chef at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi. His calm and humble demeanor is a thing of beauty. He’s a welcoming and down-to-earth fellow who doesn’t appear to be the engine behind the fledgling kitchen that has been the hallmark of Safari Park Hotel for years.

Chef Karanja knew he wanted to work in the kitchen when he was still very young. Right after high school in 1991, he quickly made an application for enrollment at the esteemed Utalii College on Thika Road. He tried his luck a few times but nothing seemed to give, and Utalii rejected him.

As he was seeking opportunities here and there, he stumbled upon an opening at Safari Park. A year had passed since he left high school. He was taken in to train on a casual basis as a waiter. Two years later, he had done so well that he was recommended for formal training by the then Executive Chef Seedorf who wanted six waiters in the kitchen.

It was then that an opening finally came at Utalii College for apprenticeship training in Food Production. Karanja decided to take his chances. He was admitted for the course, which would run four months each year for three years.

During the three years in Utalii, Karanja had the privilege of getting trained at Serena Hotel for one month by the renowned Chef Osogo. The training was essential because it centered on the art of fine dining. Meanwhile, he was still stationed at Safari Park Hotel and began work as a Chef de Partie. From there, he went from Sous Chef to Senior Sous Chef, and after eight years, he was promoted by the board of directors to the Executive Chef’s position.

His greatest motivation still remains Chef David Lancaster, who discovered and nurtured the potential in him. But he is always grateful for the support and inspiration he gets from his family, who have walked with him through his entire journey, always supporting him even when it didn’t seem right to do so.

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