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Ashley Palmer-Watts launches Nairobi Restaurant Week and revisits Joyce the fish farmer

18 January 2017

Ashley Palmer-Watts launches Nairobi Restaurant Week and revisits Joyce the fish farmer

Ashley with Joyce and her grand-daughter Nicole

Ashley Palmer-Watts, executive chef at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, has been working for over five years with Farm Africa.  

In 2012 Ashley travelled to Kenya and met Joyce Kadenge, a fish farmer from Kisumu in western Kenya who was receiving training, technical and marketing advice and equipment from Farm Africa to enable her to set up and manage her own fishponds. Inspired by his experience, Ashley went on to climb Kilimanjaro with others from the catering industry to raise a stunning £50,000.

Joyce’s dream is to educate her children and grandchildren from a profitable fish farming business. On his last visit Ashley got stuck in, cooking fish in new ways for Joyce and her neighbours as well as helping to dig out a new fish pond for her. Once finished Joyce named the pond ‘Ashley’s pond’.

It has been brilliant to come back and see Joyce and her family and the aquaculture programme.

Ashley Palmer-Watts

This week, Ashley is in Kenya to launch Nairobi Restaurant Week, the city’s most exciting and biggest culinary event that involves 60 top restaurants offering distinctive menus at fixed prices from Thursday 26 January to Sunday 5 February 2017.

Nairobi Restaurant Week will be officially launched at a charity cocktail night being held on Thursday 19 January that is hosted by EatOut Kenya, with all proceeds from ticket sales being donated to Farm Africa.

For Ashley this was also an opportunity to take some time out to revisit Joyce and ‘his’ pond to see how things have been going.

“It has been brilliant to come back and see Joyce and her family and the aquaculture programme. Three years after I was last here and there is still a lot of work to be done, especially given the challenges of the drought at the moment. Life continues to be hard for smallholder farmers in this part of Kenya but it is great to see the good work continuing by Farm Africa. It was amazing to visit Joyce’s grandchildren at school too.”

For Joyce, the support and training she has had from Farm Africa has made all the difference to the success of her business.

“With Farm Africa, we know when we are harvesting that they can take our fish to the people who are buying or bring the buyers here. Before we started doing fishponds people around us thought we were just joking but now they know it is serious business. I would recommend fish farming to others and encourage people I know because when you harvest you can get an income. I can show others the ways to farm fish. “

On this trip to Kenya for Nairobi Restaurant week, Ashley has been accompanied by Dennis Mwakula, group chef for Eversheds, Restaurant Associates. Dennis grew up in Nairobi but moved to London in 1994 to study Business and Finance. He then had a ‘revelation’ that cooking was his way forward when he was working, to fund his studies, as a kitchen porter in one of the investment banks.

Dennis is delivering the canape menu at the launch on Thursday alongside Alan Murungi, Head Chef and Master Brewer at Sierra, Nairobi and Luca Pintus, Head Chef at Tribe Hotel, Nairobi.

“I am really looking forward to the Nairobi Restaurant Week launch event with Farm Africa on Thursday and cooking in Africa where we can utilise the products being produced by the Farm Africa projects I have visited. I am looking to forward to using the event to showcase what Kenyan food can be.”

Dennis felt it was important as a city boy to visit the rural regions of his country to see how some of the food for Nairobi’s top hotels is sourced. He travelled to Kisumu with Ashley to visit Joyce.

“This trip has been a great eye-opener into what Farm Africa does for the smallholder farmers and see the challenges they face. It is clear we just need to do more.”