I attended the #KlaRestaurantWeek launch tour while on a diet and lived to tell the tale.
My dietary planning this year did not take into account events like these, and I have made a million notes to self with calendar reminders so that the next time I think of anything diet related I first make contact with all organisers of food events to make sure there will be no repeat of the pain I am going through.
I arrived at The Bistro for the launch tour well on time, heeding the ‘keep time’ warning and quite apprehensive about the night ahead.
Over a camomile tea, I engaged in a small taco-making competition and envied the judges as they took bites out of a total of eighteen tacos made by our team! I put more feeling into the task than was required, of course, but stepped on my culinary brake pedals (amateur as the accelerator ones are) when I realised some of my team mates were new to tacos in general.
I did wish that we were required to produce Rolexes instead, even though that would have been overkill for the judges, including JJ, the amiable owner of The Bistro. After their flavourful good start, off we went to Yujo, the Japanese fusion restaurant in Nakasero.
They’ve moved to a new location, I discovered, on the road below Nakasero Primary School, and are as busy as ever in the evenings.
Their owner manager, Hanif, is as energetic as they come and for a few minutes you will forget what city you are in as he whirls around you issuing instructions and cracking jokes to go with the colours sounds and smells of Yujo.
Here, I did put down a 50gramme steak, as that fits well within my dietary measures, but during #KlaRestaurantWeek it will be a 100grammer (on the special). I missed out on the Kampala Roll (their response to the Philadelphia Roll) because of the ingredients containing things verbotten to me – but I will be back, walahi!
After that the rest of the group went to The Lawns but I wasn’t strong enough (or was wise enough not to try) to fight all that temptation, and left them to their enjoyment.
But enough about food – on this blog.
The point of the #KlaRestaurantWeek, and the reason you must all go out to the participating restaurants and take part in this culinary adventure is because it is:
1. A lot of fun: Visiting 40 (forty) restaurants in about seven days is DEFINITELY piles of fun – going by our night of just three restaurants. If you plan your week properly you can maximise everything that those restaurants have to offer by taking in the special menu items first and going in groups of friends so you all order different dishes and keep the experience lively.
2. Easy to do: Imagine that on the night of the launch we got from one restaurant to the next in good time regardless of the crazy Kampala traffic, simply by planning the journey and using the relevant back roads – even with the Fairway roundabout in the way of two of the trips. Just by planning a route in advance we cut off precious minutes of digestion time and enjoyed three restaurants in one night (that could easily be “for the price of one”…next bullet)
3. Cheap: For real! If you are clever about it and choose the specials only then you will be on a roll. Most of the meals are either Ushs10,000 or Ushs25,000, in places where during the normal days the cost of each would be about Ushs5,000 or Ushs10,000 more than that. It’s a bargain especially considering that the quantities are more or less the same decent amount you will get when the #KlaRestaurantWeek has ended and we are all pretending to be normal. Visit this page: http://thepearlguide.co.ug/kampala-restaurant-week/ for more.
4. Surprisingly pleasant: Especially finding that there are so many fine restaurants right here in Kampala! Sitting in Yujo, for instance, was like being part of one of those highly entertaining and mouthwatering programmes on the Food Channel (not the one of UBC…yet).
5. An adventure in discovery: As immediately above, but also, for instance, I discovered Yum Deliveries – a new rival of Hello Food – and Eat Out Uganda, with whom I immediately signed up. Actually, I can boast here that I am the first Ugandan to sign up for an Eat Out card, because I happened to meet the Country Manager on the #KlaRestaurantWeek tour that evening.
6. A great way to meet people: As evidenced immediately above, besides the fact that I met a number of bloggers in the flesh on that one night and will be meeting many more bloggers, celebrities, fun Ugandans, great people of all walks of life, provided I go through these restaurants during #KlaRestaurantWeek.
This week is not just about you and I going into those restaurants to eat food though;; it is also about Ugandan restaurants raising the bar to compete with the rest of the world.
Fine dining can be found in Uganda, but so can consistent good food, as many of the 40 (forty) restaurants will show. Plus, in coming years we need to see more and more ‘ordinary’ local restaurants proudly displaying the ‘Kampala Restaurant Week’ badge – including the pork joints many of us like to frequent (I miss those).
And the week gives these restaurants the opportunity to showcase innovation. At Yujo, on the night we were there, the whole restaurant went silent at one point and I looked around to catch about ten people nodding their heads as if in some foodie Mexican wave.
They were all chewing on the Katsuberry burger, and because I couldn’t take a bit I interested myself in what it tasted like.
“Mmmmmryy jnncckjkkddnnnggh,” everyone seemed to say, in their reluctance to stop eating into the damn things.
Eventually someone told me the story of how Hanif and his team went shopping for rare strawberries in a market in Kampala when they were in season, and found the most succulent and juicy offering they had ever seen on our shelves.
Snapping them up, they sped back to the restaurant to make their meal but, as Ssemwogerere’s Law dictates, someone sat on the bag of berries and squashed them flat in their kaveera. The chef was beaten, as was the entire kitchen team. But they did not despair; with some quick thinking and brainstorming, they mixed the squashed berries with aioli and voila! The Katsuberry Burger was now a gastronomic conversation stopper.
That’s innovation in food – they type of result that the #KlaRestaurantWeek aims for.
May we have many more!
(There are no photographs here because at the last food event I attended before this one, someone stole my camera…)
LAST week a young man called Gimei Nagimesi shared an amusing tale that tickled my hopes.
This young man is the type who always stays in the background doing groundbreaking things. I know, for instance, that he was instrumental in the creation of the ‘Golola Moses’ brand and all those statements around ripping pages out of Facebook and hanging clothes on telephone lines.
His story last week had far less of a celebrity factor. He confessed that he is the type of person who can’t walk past a volleyball court, and so during a health run along the northern by-pass one day he got stuck playing his favourite game.
Before long he was a permanent fixture on that court and being the only urban professional on the court, Gimei found himself buying rounds of drinking water and kabalagala every so often from the cycling vendors that went by the court at a certain hour every evening. It became obvious that this event was a highlight of the day and Gimei suspected that some of them turned up to play purely for that kabalagala break.
Total cost of feeding the entire court per day? Less than ten thousand shillings (Ushs10,000).
He then began to look into the other permanent fixtures on court, and as he was doing so, one of them caught his attention for being keen and earnest.
The young man in question opened up to Gimei and told him he was generally broke but played every day to expose himself to opportunities. He then proposed that Gimei funds him with Ushs1.4million so he could get going.
What’s the business?
Gimei found the figure intriguing, and the response even more so, and probed further till the young man outlined his plan.
Where he lives, in the swamps somewhere off the northern by-pass, there are many school-going children who use each buy a book at the start of each school term. Annoyingly, the nearest source of stationary is somewhere in Ntinda, which involves some kilometres of walking.
The young man therefore wanted to make Counter Books and sell them to the many schoolchildren in his neighbourhood, and believed a profit could be made.
Gimei gave it a brief thought and figured that it made sense. Besides, to him Ushs1.4million was not such a massive amount of money so…he invested.
The young man took up the cash and embarked on the job with gusto NOT just buying books to re-sell, but buying reams of paper, glue, hard covers, and other materials; then spending hours making Counter Books himself, which he then sold out of his home.
Profit? Ushs500,000 in total.
Gimei was nonplussed when the young fellow showed up out of the swamps to hand over his 50% of the profits, a few weeks later. They’ve continued the cycle, unless some bureaucracy steps up to investigate, in which case it ended.
But not before another young fellow approached him and asked, in Luganda, whether if ‘someone’ funded him (this new young fellow) he couldn’t set up a kaveera water business of his own right there at the court for the players, so that they buy from him instead of buying from the cyclist going past.
Gimei now finds himself to be a venture capitalist of sorts, and the experience is enjoyably uplifting.
investopedia.com defines a Venture Capitalist as “an investor who either provides capital to startup ventures or supports small companies that wish to expand but do not have access to equities markets.”
In developed economies venture capitalists are a serious factor of economic growth, because they are willing to invest in these small ventures that formal financing doesn’t trust or finds awkward.
In the United States, companies like Intel, Fedex, Apple, Google, and Microsoft started off with venture capital funding, and are now global giants. Their ideas, when they kicked off, seemed crazy or wild or simply untenable because they were different from what leading organisations like banks and financial analysts generally knew.
No bank or government agency would fund Gimei’s young Counter Book manufacturing friend, for instance, but Gimei now has the fellow earning a respectable income, while earning a profit of his own, and possibly also thinking about going to other parts of the swamp to do the same and multiply his earnings.
Besides just financing, though, venture capitalists also provide mentorship – which is probably the most important element in entrepreneurship, and what the boys at the volleyball court take from Gimei more significantly than kabalagala. See, anybody can get financing, in a manner of speaking, but the attitude and aptitude to run an enterprise are a different matter altogether.
Plus, venture capitalist funded companies and enterprises tend to introduce new solutions that regular businesses wouldn’t dare touch. That’s why we more of us use Apple products than Texas Instruments (I had a TI calculator back in the 1980s that was all the rage then!)
Venture capitalists also experience major losses when their picks fail, but these investors are typically wealthy enough that they can afford to take the risks associated with funding young, unproven companies that appear to have a great idea and a great management team – as Gimei would have exhibited if the young man hadn’t turned a neat profit.
The problem of youth unemployment keeps getting talked about with reference to government intervention and ‘support’, yet we all have the opportunity to make some market corrections and build the economy by being venture capitalists in some small way.
If we had as many entrepreneurship meetings as we do wedding, graduation and funeral fund raising meetings, I am certain things would be different. If we had gatherings at which we threw around entrepreneurship advice and funding rather than suggestions of which caterer to procure or what colour the cake should be, just imagine how many more jobs would be created in this economy.
We probably collect a hundred million shillings weekly for weddings, funerals and graduation parties, which certainly supports a certain segment of the economy, but Gimei’s story made me think more of what could happen if we collected that money to fund ventures instead.
A couple of Stanford University scholars did a study on the impact of venture capitalists on the US economy and found it to be large. Between 1979 and 2013, more than 2,600 venture capital-backed companies went public (onto the stock exchange there).
Compare that to Uganda where the Uganda Securities Exchange holds eight (8) companies – if you and I funded up a few earnest, hungry young fellows, maybe our companies might join the lonely eight on the Stock Exchange one day?
details about this fantastic place with its magnificent tourism offerings and great, hospitable, generous, talented people.
The Japanese are well known the world over for being efficient, precise and so highly sensitive about integrity that legend has it they will commit suicide painfully (‘hara-kiri’, or ‘seppuku’) if their personal reputations ever come into question.
It is the first two characteristics that make them such manufacturing and logistics superheroes that they have produced more cars than any other country in the world for the last fifty years.
They even came up with, and rolled out to the rest of the world, a concept called ‘Kaizen’, described as “the practice of continuous improvement…recognised an important pillar of an organisation’s long-term competitive strategy.”
In Uganda, the vast majority of our interaction with Japan is obviously the second hard vehicles that we shuttle about in…or so we thought:
Late last year I went for an Organic Farmer’s fair at the Acacia Mall; every other Saturday the Mall opens its rooftop up to small scale or cottage industries and sectors
in Uganda to exhibit and sell their wares – a corporate social initiative we don’t often see but that is high impact for the beneficiaries.
That day the exhibition was staged by NOGAMU – the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda.
The exhibitors were mostly ladies, and their wares were exciting to see, especially for a chap like me who dabbles in backyard gardening and hopes to one day do some full-blown agriculture.
I walked through the displays of sugarcanes, paw-paws, fence, some massive cassava tubers, and even smoked fish. Weaving through the table stands I was pleasantly surprised to find that they even had packed products such as herbal teas and dried fruit snacks, all the way to soaps and oils.
The ladies (and a couple of young fellows) were all pleasant, welcoming and courteous – and they even had bits of products for us to chew on or sample, as part of their effort at enticing us to buy – “jaribu”, we used to call that, back in the day.
When we eventually got to the checkout table I was surprised to find I was being processed by a young Japanese lady – wearing one of those hats (you know the ones) but without a camera slung round her neck.
She wrote down my purchases quite neatly in a ledger, did the mental maths, then punched the numbers into a calculator to double check before writing me my receipt.
“What is this about?” I asked her, and she handed me her http://www.on-the-slope.com business card. We couldn’t engage in the type of lengthy discussion I would have wanted to, as she was at work and perhaps my enthusiasm was more than she cold bear at the time.
But I accosted one of her Ugandan colleagues, a very well-spoken young lady, who also gave me a business card and offered to make products available for home delivery if I so wished.
That is a whole different story, so I’ll stick to this one.
I went to the www.on-the-slope.com website and found the tab ‘Uganda Project’, and scrolled through many nice photographs of ordinary, healthy-looking Ugandans in healthy-looking upcountry rural locations holding up healthy-looking fruits and vegetables.
The quality of the photographs was not surprising since the Japanese famously make those cameras and lenses, but it was pleasing to see such positive energy about Uganda on a foreign website.
The text was in Japanese so Google translate didn’t tell me enough of what was happening, so I still don’t know much about this project besides the obvious – the Japanese are promoting Uganda’s organic produce.
The lady working with NOGAMU is part of the project, probably here short term to intern or do some skills transfers.
More importantly, to me, if the Japanese are here promoting Uganda’s organic agriculture, shouldn’t we be taking more notice ourselves?
It would appear, from that website and other links it led me to, that some organic food is already being exported to Japan! Are we exchanging this food for the second hand cars? Definitely not – but somebody else pointed out to me that we should be doing so in a big way, because:
Japan appreciates us. Japan likes organic food. Japan has no space for growing their own food. We have that space. We grow organic food quite easily. We are good enough for the reputation-sensitive Japanese to come here and identify with us.
Quod erat demonstrandum.