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Chef Africa 2012

View a gallery of images from the evening.

You can read a Big Hospitality article on the evening including a video in which Ashley talks about his experiences in Kenya.

15 November 2012

Chef Africa dinner raises £29,000 for Farm Africa!

This week's unique Chef Africa dinner has raised a staggering £29,100 for Farm Africa so far with more donations still to come in.

The money was raised thanks to the successful auction of a stunning collection of prize lots which had been donated to Farm Africa. Lots included a stunning print of 'The Studio' by Pablo Picasso and a spa, dinner and stay for two at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park.

But before the auction got going, guests savoured a unique dinner cooked by Michelin-starred chef Ashley Palmer-Watts and fellow leading chefs Paul Foster and Bruno Loubet. The evening was hosted by Sainsbury's in the refined surroundings of the dining room of their London headquarters, offering guests breathtaking views of the City's skyline and St Pauls Cathedral.

Ashley Palmer-Watts, who is Head Chef at the celebrated London restaurant Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, provided the highlight of the evening when he announced that he would soon be getting in training for a punishing climb next year to the summit of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the world's tallest freestanding mountain. The chef will be aiming to raise more funds for Farm Africa from the climb and he even threw down the gauntlet to his fellow chefs to join him on the mountain!

Ashley also treated guests to a short documentary film of his visit in October to Farm Africa's Aqua Sops project in Kisumu, Kenya. Watch the Big Hospitality's video and view a gallery of images from Ashley's visit.

Farm Africa would like to thank everyone involved in what was both a highly successful and enormously enjoyable evening.

13 November 2012

Ashley Palmer-Watts celebrates trip to Farm Africa project with glittering London dinner

Ashley has tonight celebrated his recent trip to Kenya with Farm Africa by cooking a very special meal for food industry leaders. The meal was hosted by Sainsbury's at their corporate headquarters in London and Ashley was joined by fellow leading chefs, Paul Foster and Bruno Loubet.

The lucky guests are now taking part in an auction of some pretty amazing prizes to help raise funds for Farm Africa. Prizes include a Spa and dinner and stay for two at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London and the print 'Studio' by Pablo Picasso.

Nigel Harris with the three chefs behind tonight's dinner: Ashley Palmer-Watts, Paul Foster and Bruno LoubetDinner guests enjoy conversation bewteen courses

Photo Gallery from Ashley Palmer-Watts trip to Western Kenya

2 October 2012

Ashley discussing ideas for making their food go further with farmers in KisumuHave a look at how top London chef Ashley Palmer-Watts spent his time while visiting our Aqua Shops project in Western Kenya. Ashley stayed with a local fish farmer, Joyce Kadenge, in the heart of the community and learned what a huge difference Farm Africa's Aqua Shops are making to fish farmers in Kisumu.

Just click on an image for an image description.

You can find out much more about Farm Africa's Aqua Shops project here.



Heston chef wraps up Farm Africa trip

01 October 2012

Top London Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts has just returned to his Knightsbridge restaurant ‘Dinner’ following an extraordinary trip to Kenya to see Farm Africa’s Aqua Shops project.

Before getting on the plane for his flight back to London, Ashley jotted down some reflections on his stay for his Africa Diary.

He was struck by how rural communities are entirely dependent on each other in a very self-sustaining way, growing food together, living together and helping each other out.

And in his diary Ashley also commented on the “massively important” support fish farmers are receiving from Farm Africa through the Aqua Shops. The shop owners help train farmers and provide them with everything they need, from manure for lining the ponds to fingerlings which the farmers feed and which eventually grow into health tilapia fish.

“Long-lasting results”

During his stay in Kisumu he spent a huge amount of time sitting down with fish farmers and their communities, hearing about the challenges and opportunities they face so that he could gain a real understanding of how our project works “from start to finish”.

And what really struck the chef was how the project brought together the ponds, the infrastructure and the training which, he claims, “is so important because it delivers long-lasting results.”

During his stay with local fish farmer Joyce he also found time to come up with new ideas to help the fish farmers we are working with to make much as much as they can from the fish they farm and which they rely on for survival.
On his final night at Joyce’s home he was presented with the “challenge” of cooking for her and 20 guests that quickly turned into 60!


Ashley Palmer-Watts becomes a fish farmer for the day!

 29 September 2012

APW gets in the pond to help fish farmers harves the pond for tilapiaTop London chef Ashley Palmer-Watts has spent his Saturday up to his knees in a fish pond with local fish farmers.

The chef actually got in the pond with the fish farmers to experience first hand what it's like to harvest the fish pond and to net the fully grown tilapia!

Meeting the fish farmers was a hugely enjoyable experience for the chef who was able to see how effectively these fish farmers are linking up with the Aqua Shops set up by Farm Africa.

In his Africa Diary Ashley commented how meeting Saul Odenyo - one of the Aqua Shop owners - and listening to his future plans for the business had made a "big impression" on him. He also mentioned how grateful the fish farmers are for all the support and training they are getting from the Aqua Shops.

Having met some of Lake Victoria's traditional fishermen and having heard how supplies in the lake are dwindling, Ashley has been hugely impressed to se how many fishermen are coming on to the land to farm tilapia instead.

"it shows a massive thought process to plan ahead for the years to come."

You can watch some wonderful video footage of Ashley explaining how the fish ponds work on his Africa Diary.

And you can learn much more about how Farm Africa is supporting fish farming through its Aqua Shops Project.


29 September 2012

Ashley Palmer-Watts meeting Saul Odenyo, one of Farm Africa's  Aqua Shop ownersTop London chef Ashley has spent his Saturday meeting owners of the Aqua Shops set up by Farm Africa in Western Kenya. Here he is talking to one of the owners, Saul Odenyo about both the challenges and opportunities faced by fish farmers in Kenya, as well as Saul's future hopes for his business.

Farm Africa's Aqua shops are playing a vital role in helping fish farmers to provide more affordable fish to the local population. In western Kenya, almost 60 per cent of households are dependent on fish, either directly or indirectly, as a source of food or income.  Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and provides over 90% of Kenya’s total fish supplies; however wild fish stocks in this lake and other lakes in Kenya are dwindling, mainly due to overfishing and pollution.  As demand for fish outstrips supply, the price of fish is rising.  For many people who are already struggling to feed themselves, this shortage is hitting them hard.

In response to the reduction in fish stocks, the Kenyan Government is actively promoting aquaculture and small-scale fish farming from man-made fish ponds as a source of both food and income and aims to set up 4,000 new fish ponds in western Kenya.

In his online diary, Ashley commented:

"Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and provides over 90% of Kenya’s total fish supplies; however wild fish stocks in this lake and other lakes in Kenya are dwindling, mainly due to overfishing and pollution.  As demand for fish outstrips supply, the price of fish is rising.  For many people who are already struggling to feed themselves, this shortage is hitting them hard."

For live as-it-happens updates from Ashley's trip, read his African Diary

And click here to learn more about Farm Africa's Aqua Shops Project.


28 September 2012

Go Ashley!  It’s fantastic to see the #ChefAfrica tweets from Heston’s gastro star Ashley Palmer-Watts visiting Farm Africa’s amazing fish farming network in Kenya. He’s there as ambassador of the UK  hospitality industry, inspiring more food professionals and companies to support Farm Africa’s work.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to farm fish and you feed his family for a lifetime and preserve the natural environment for lifetimes to come!   That’s the Farm Africa’s approach as Ashley, executive chef of the famous Fat Duck Group, is seeing for himself. 

He’s meeting fish farmers, Aqua Shop owners, living in the rural mud-hut community with Joyce Kadenge and her family, and cooking up ideas to help people get more out of the precious fish they rely on for food and income.

Read Ashley’s Africa diary and see his pictures


Ashley sings for his lunch by weeding and doing the dishes!

28 September 2012

Joyce outside her homeSounds like #ChefAfrica had a great lunch but he had to work for it:

"Just finished a lovely lunch cooked by Joyce - githeri and tea. Githeri is a bean and maize dish, very filling after a hard mornings work tending the farm. Ashley has been weeding, collecting water, washing dishes, catching and gutting fish, and also planning his menu for the harvest celebration tomorrow."


Ashley meets Aqua Shop owners from Farm Africa project

28 September 2012

Top Knightsbridge chef and Heston Blumenthal’s brilliant No2 Ashley Palmer-Watts is in Western Kenya with Farm Africa, spending time with the communities who live by fishing or farming fish around Lake Victoria.

Saul OdenyoOne of the high spots for the young gastro star yesterday was meeting entrepreneur Saul Odenyo who has set up an Aqua Shop in Farm Africa’s network  and is now supplying fish farmers with support, training in their ventures.

Ashley Also met Lake Victoria fishermen and heard how some are moving from harvesting the wild, dwindling shoals and moving instead towards the sustainable fish farming pioneered in Kenya by Farm Africa.

Ashley, who is travelling to the Farm Africa project as an ambassador of the hospitality industry in an effort to raise awareness of the challenges facing African farmers and the solutions Farm Africa is coming up with ,  said of Farm Africa’s Aqua Shop and fishpond enterprise: “This charity project seems a really sensible way to set people up to sustain their own futures. Fish suppliers and chefs in the UK need to be aware of it – we live in an incredibly privileged world where we don’t have these issues. Every little helps because it is a massive cause. “

Read Ashley’s diary in video, pictures and his own words


'Amazing welcome' for Heston Chef

27 September 2012

It’s Day 2 of masterchef Ashley Palmer-Watts’ trip to Farm Africa’s work in Western Kenya.

Ashley is going to stay with Joyce Kadenge and her family in the conmmunity as he explores ways of helping people to add value to the fish they farm for food and income.

Joyce Kadenge

Joyce Kadenge

Yesterday afternoon he met her and had ‘an amazing welcome’. 

They all had tea together, then a formal introduction followed. Ashley was impressed by the ceremonious quality of the engagement, which he says seems typical of the region.

Ashley also got down to business with a first visit to one of  Farm Africa’s network of Aqua Shops where he met some of the people who have started farming fish, and he heard about what he called the “the difficulties and challenges and the positives” of the aquaculture initiative. 

You can read all Ashley's updates as they are posted via his Africa Diary.

And you can follow Ashley's progress round Kenya on Twitter via the hashtag #ChefAfrica.

Find out more about Farm Africa's Aqua Shops Project that Ashley is visiting.


Ashley's tilapia lunch at Kisumu market

26 September 2012

Ashley inspects the fish at Kisumu market with Farm Africa's Susan Otieno

You can read all Ashley's updates as they are posted via his Africa Diary.

Ashley and team have arrived safely in Kenya. They spent the night in Nairobi before catching a dawn flight to Kisumu.

There they met up with Farm Africa’s Susan Otieno, who has already taken Ashley and Big Hospitality journalist Peter Ruddick to a local fish market where Ashley got his first look at the kind of foods available to people of the region.

Ashley has tweeted: "Our driver said heavy mist this morning means heavy rain later!”

deep-fried Tilapia with tomatoes, onion and kale - Ashley's lunch at Kisumu marketOver the team’s lunch of tilapia, tomato, kale and onion near Lake Victoria,  the Mandarin Oriental chef showed Susan pictures of food from his restaurant, ‘Dinner by Heston Blumenthal’. He commented that his trademark dish ‘meat fruit’ proved hard to explain. The dish, inspired by mediaeval British food, involves creating a citrus-savoury surprise, with chicken liver parfait disguised as a mandarin.

Before leaving the UK, Ashley told Big Hospitality about the lasting effect of Farm Africa’s work for local people: “It is not just giving them something to eat but giving them something to sustain them for the future, generation after generation after generation.”

Read Ashley’s as-it-happens Africa Diary as he reports his experience and reactions with words, pictures and video



25 September 2012

Ashley Palmer-Watts ready for take-off at Heathrow

Top London chef Ashley Palmer-Watts is at Heathrow ready to board his flight to Kenya where he will be thinking up ideas to help local  communities  make more of the fish they rely on for survival.

Learn more about Ashley’s trip and how you or your company can help Farm Africa like Ashley.

Click here to follow Ashley's blog and trip diary.



24 September 2012

Top London Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts travels to Kenya

A Cook’s Tour: Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts’ Charity Challenge

Top London chef Ashley Palmer Watts has taken up Farm Africa’s challenge to visit Kenya and come up with ideas to help the local communities make more of the fish they rely on for survival.

In under 24 hours, Heston’s No 2 will be flying out to Western Kenya to visit Farm Africa’s fish ponds and Aqua Shop network near Lake Victoria.     

Born and raised in Dorset, Heston Blumenthal’s brilliant protege and executive chef of Bray’s famous Fat Duck Group is forsaking his fashionable ‘Hestelries’ for a mud hut village where he will put his skills to work for his hosts of the Luo tribe.

Rural kitchens in the area are basic - stone fire-places, charcoal stoves and soot-covered pans blackened by cooking on open flames – a far cry from the cheffy sheen of Ashley’s London workplace.

“I’m excited about visiting Farm Africa’s fish farming enterprise - but I’ve no idea what to expect so feel a bit nervous. Cooking with the community will mean going right back to basics – no fridges, no water on tap and certainly no hot and cold running sous chefs!   I imagine it will be fascinating to observe the approach to taste and flavour, considering the limitations,” says the young gastro star.

Originally from Maiden Newton in Dorset, Ashley Palmer Watts’s passion for cooking was sparked by his love of the Dorset countryside and its treasury of seasonal produce. His career began at the age of 13 with an after-school washing up job in a local restaurant. After leaving school, he began learning his craft at Le Petit Canard whilst spending his free time visiting and getting to know suppliers and producers.

The Luo diet is based around the freshwater tilapia fish, which people eat with ‘ugali’, a polenta-like porridge made with cornmeal - rather than with Heston’s iconic snails or the nettles Ashley himself serves in porridge at the top Knightsbridge eatery ‘Dinner by Heston Blumenthal’ where he is head chef.

In Western Kenya, some 60% of families depend on fish for food and income but overfishing and pollution in Lake Victoria have depleted stocks, causing prices to rocket, and hitting people hard.

The answer has been to create fishponds, digging them out by hand. Around Kisumu, Farm Africa is helping local fish farmers to excavate ponds, stock them, and improve the quality and quantity of the tilapia their ponds produce.

Escorted by Susan Otieno, the Aqua Shops network co-ordinator,  Ashley will meet fish farmers like Johnstone Odipo whose annual income has soared from 2,000 to 70,000 Kenyan shillings thanks to Farm Africa’s network of ‘Aqua Shops’ supplying training and affordable high quality feed and young fish. The chef will also meet the first woman to have started an Aqua Shop.

With a watchful eye on the local hippos and crocs, Ashley will visit Lake Victoria to see fish being landed and to see for himself the context and impact of dwindling shoals on the livelihood of the region.

During his trip, Ashley will stay in a village as guest in the home of Joyce Kadenge and her family in the Mumias area of the western province.

As part of the skillsharing,  Ashley will act as sous-chef for the village women cooking up both everyday and celebration meals. Getting to grips with the challenges they face, he will gain insight into their daily routine of fire tending, and the harvesting, preparation, processing, storage, cooking and serving of food.

“Cooks love to learn from one another and I’m no exception.  I can’t wait to see how they do things, and hopefully swap my trade secrets.  I know I will learn a lot.  It’s going to be a huge privilege to stay in the community, getting a close look at the impact Farm Africa has made to improve life for these farmers and their families” said Ashley.

The chef plans to harvest fish with Farm Africa pond owners and buy fruit and vegetables in the local market before taking charge of a meal himself and applying his ‘Hestauranteur’ twist to traditional Kenyan cooking a few miles from the Equator.

He will then work with the community on trying to identify new ways of preserving and processing fish so that its food or market value can be increased and ‘shelf life’ extended.

It’s half a world away from ‘Dinner’, where Ashley puts a quirky modern twist on historic British dishes from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Pineapples roast on spits and the menu includes fired mussels, meat fruit, cockle ketchup, powdered duck breasts, ‘ragoo of pigs ears’, snails, roast marrowbone, and nettle porridge.
“The visit by Ashley Palmer Watts is part of Farm Africa’s effort to work ever more closely with partners in the food and restaurant sectors with whom the charity shares the ambition to end hunger in Africa. Last autumn, ten of the most senior figures in the UK food industry climbed Kenya’s Mount Kilimanjaro for Farm Africa. It marked the start of partnerships on which many joint initiatives that Farm Africa is planning can be based. This trip by Ashley is an exciting start ” said the charity’s chief executive Nigel Harris.

Find out how your company can support Farm Africa like Ashley.

To follow Ashley’s Kenya blog and trip diary, click here.