CHEF ZABLON RUBIA IS A LEADING CHEF IN KENYA AND CURRENTLY WORKS AT THE IBIS STYLES HOTEL IN NAIROBI AS AN EXECUTIVE CHEF. HE SHARES WITH US HIS DEEP CONVICTIONS ABOUT COOKING AND WHY HIS PROFESSION IS EVERYTHING TO DIE FOR.
Where did you grow up?
Was born in Mombasa and grew up in Nairobi.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef? What inspired you to want to be a chef, and who was your immediate role model on the same?
Being a chef is a passion and I was always fascinated by how creative did their presentations; and how they would play with ingredients to come up with a brilliant end result. My father who is a renowned chef was and will always be my role model.
What is your favourite food memory?
My first time when cooking and tasting frog legs.
Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training? Did you contemplate quitting at some juncture or you were completely sure this was the line of career you wanted to pursue?
I started training as an apprentice at safari park hotel before joining Kenya Utalii College for a 2 years Culinary Course. During training as an apprentice, I had little knowledge of the industry and had a difficult time adjusting to the pressures and challenges that come with. I almost quit at some juncture because of the long working hours, dealing with different people and the job pressure. But since I wanted to be a professional chef, I somehow found a way of adapting to the industry dynamics and facing the challenges that came along; which I took in as learning experiences.
How do you get your inspiration, after all these years of experience in the chef’s kitchen?
By being open minded, focused and professional. Lots of research on the modern cooking, presentation and working or exchanging ideas with other chefs through culinary forums.
What’s your favourite kitchen equipment or gadget?
My Siphon / espuma.
What would you consider your best cooking tip for a novice just getting into the business?
Be positive, open minded, dedicated, focused, take criticism positively and resilient.
What was your funniest kitchen incident?
There was an incident way back involving an intern who tried to make fries, but forgot to dry the wet chips. The moment he dipped the basket full of chips into the frier, the reaction emanating from the presence of water coming into contact with cooking oil turned messy, and the oil violently spilled. Instead of taking the basket out of the frier, the intern opted to take to his heels.
Who in the food world do you most admire?
My father who’s a renowned chef and Chef Ali Roble.
What is the food you enjoy cooking most? And what is the most challenging ingredient to work with?
Because I’m naturally creative, I love experimenting with different cuisines; so I’m flexible enough to cook any meal using any challenging ingredients available for use.
What do you like to eat when at home? Do you also cook for your family at home? Do they love your food?
I love a good rice dish; and, yes, I do cook for my family and they always ask when I’d cook again.
Are there any foods you just don’t like? Are there incidents when you’ve lost your head because of pressure at the kitchen and the demands from clients to the establishment? Would you say you are always under pressure?
I’m quite expressive when it comes to food and trying new things when I’m travelling. The pressure in the kitchen can get quite intense at times but with experience and professionalism, I always know how to manage myself and my juniors.The secret to avoiding lots of pressure in the kitchen is to plan and prepare in advance.
What’s your favourite cook book?
Quick & Easy foods by Jamie Olive
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years to come?
Running my own restaurant and which will provide modern gourmet dining experience; an infusion of our local food with other international cuisines.
What is going to be the next big thing in the food world?
The next big thing will be the breakthrough of Kenyan/African cuisine onto the international stage as gourmet food.
What do you do for fun? Where is your favourite place in the world?
I love travelling a lot and my favourite place in the world is Santorini in Greece.
What do you love most about your job?
The fact that I travel, meet people from different parts of the world and that as a chef, I get to sit people of different walks of life to enjoy good food.
Any parting shot?
With a positive attitude, focus, interest and self-drive. One can excel in any profession progressively.