Monday, January 11, 2016

How I defiled my dad's advice to become a chef--- Kristijan

Chef Primorac Kristijan grew up in Germany watching his parents running their restaurant, though the father wanted him to go into other professions but not cooking. The father thought he will not be rich if he becomes a chef, but the he said he did not listen to the advise as he is happy being a chef today and married to one too.
Here is the story of the 39 years old Croatian who is the Executive Chef at Radisson Blu Hotel, Lagos as he shared it with JIMOH BABATUNDE. Here is an excerpt .

On how he came into the profession

I am 39 years old. I have been with the Radisson Blu for five years.

I was born 39 years ago and grew up in Germany. My parents are from Croatia. I was born into this industry as my parents have their own restaurant which they have been operating for over 45years.
Though my father advised me not to take up the profession believing that as a chef I will not make money as well as have time for my family. So, he said I should look for something else to do.
But, I did not listen to him as I am in the profession today.

On why he didn't listen to his dad
If you grow up in a restaurant like I did growing up in my parents restaurant then for you everything is normal in helping to set up the kitchen, assist in cooking and helping out generally at the the restaurant. So, it was something I know and feel comfortable with and so it was normal decision to want to become a professional chef.
My father was head waiter and my mum was head chef in their restaurant, I started as a waiter and discovered I was not having fun outside as I felt more comfortable in the kitchen.

Why was he comfortable in the kitchen
Growing up, I was always in the kitchen watching and eating as my mum cooked lot of local Croatian food, so most times I was there with her chopping and helping her.
Outside the kitchen, my dad was short of people so I do help him as a waiter. So my decision to help was a normal one as I was familiar with the kitchen. I know how to cook. So it was a nice decision at the end.

On formal training as chef
Yes in Germany you have three years training in a school and hotel. Five days in the kitchen, one day in school and a day off.
During the training , I was always saying after school let see how far I can go. I had high hope of graduating and start working for big companies like Hilton Hotels.
I worked first in a small private hotel, French cuisine, a high level restaurant in Germany. Then I said it was time to work in a bigger hotel to see big operations.
To cook in a small hotel is different from working in a big hotel, for me it was interesting to see what was going on there, so my first work was with Hilton in Dusseldorf with ball room for 10000 people, one fine dining restaurant, one banquet and a restaurant with buffet.
From their I met lot of good people, I had a head chef that gave me space to grow and cook what I liked.
Though you need to follow the hotel policy, but he gave me space to experiment. He always says Kristen do it, if fine great, but if not do it again to make it better.
Before moving to Radisson, I worked in a fine dinning restaurant for a year and another private restaurant and after German I moved to Croatia with Radisson Blu.
Then you have choices of where to work, to have taste of different kitchens and to work with different people from different countries. I spent six years with Hilton Hotel and now six years with Radisson Blu Hotel.
This is the second hotel I am opening with Radisson Blu in Nigeria and my second time here in Nigeria
On how it has been in Nigeria
Africa and Europe is completely different. I have never been here before . The food here is very spicy. Nigerians like very spicy food unlike Germans or Croatian.
It is completely different

On his food philosophy
I am from a Mediterranean country, so I work a lot with herbs, different kind of olive oil, this is where I grew up and what I learnt, but here in Nigeria it is completely different,
So I like to put all, Germany, Croatia and Nigeria, together
I find a way to put together what the different people like , like adding different chillies and pepper .

On his favourite dish
I have two. First I like chicken pepper soup. My mum used to cook chicken soup for us at home, but not in the same way with what you have here in Nigeria, where you have lot of pepper.
But I do tell my guys here that when you cook Chicken pepper soup for me, please, add less pepper.
I also like chicken suya and beef suya with a star beer.

Funniest experience in the kitchen
I have lots. My first time here at Radisson Blu in Lagos. I had my cutting board ready for preparing my breakfast. I had my tomatoes, cucumbers and toast. One of my staff was also coming. She brought chillies to cut on the board while I stepped out.
Then took his stuff off the board and went away. When I returned I started with same knife on same board to cut my tomatoes, cucumber and bread.
With same knife spread the butter on my bread. You can imagine a European in Nigeria for the first time eating such hot food as the pepper cut on the board found its way to my food.
My mouth was burning. I could not shout.

The best food he enjoys cooking
It depends on where I am. If in Croatia, I like to put the fish in a charcoal grill with olive oil, potatoes and a good beer. In Germany, red cabbage, potatoes and a good roasted beef.

On what guests should look for in terms of food at Radisson Blu
I have to cook large. Nigeria likes snails, spicy pepper inside. I think I can make same but not spicy and used same base of tatase, pepper, fish, snails combined. I like to fuse food of two countries as this defined my philosophy of combining the two ingredients in one plate.
During the yuletide season, the biggest buffet in town will be here. As we will be serving Nigerian cuisine and international favourites,
If he cooks at home
My wife is also a chef. So, in most cases she cooks. If I need to cook, it means she cleans the kitchen for two days, so she tells me to sit why she cooks so she can clean the kitchen easily.
When I cook at home, I don’t know when I start cooking some specialities bringing in different spices, but my wife tells me I spend too much time in the kitchen.
She cooks, so I don't have problem with that. ‎

Govt. urged to pay attention to zoos, wildlife

Govt. urged to pay attention to zoos, wildlife

Members of the Nigeria Association of Zoological Gardens (NAZG) has called on government at all levels in the country to pay serious attention to the funding and maintenance of the zoos and wildlife especially with a view to introducing basic technology given their economic and environmental importance.
The group said noted that the recent lion escape from Jos Wildlife Park and Zoological Garden and its subsequent killing by a group of people has brought the poor state of wildlife parks and zoological gardens across the country to the spotlight.
Speaking with journalists on the fact finding panel into the incident by the group, the National Secretary of NAZG, Andy Ehanire, revealed that the result has shown that weakness in the enclosure of the lion may have led to it escape.
‘‘In the course of our preliminary investigations, it became obvious that materials fatigue in the construction of the lion enclosure is prime suspect as to the main cause leading to the escape,’’ disclosed Ehanire who is also the manager of Ogba Zoo, Benin City, Edo.
He added that the incident has revealed the underbelly of zoos and wildlife parks in the country, which he said have become obsolete due to their ages and the lack of maintenance and modernisation through advanced technological improvement as is the case in other climes where these tourist centres are taken seriously.
‘‘It was equally necessary to unravel the circumstances of the lion escape, as to getting the precise explanation for the incident. There is always the need to know if the incident was avoidable and the lessons to be learnt by both the management of the facility in question as well as other practitioners in the same line of duty, or as far as stakeholders would seek to know.
“Once the panel’s report is made available to us, the Executive Committee of NAZG would request to schedule a meeting with the authorities of the park to discuss the issues arising therein. In the final analysis, the urgent repositioning of Jos Wildlife Park, along with other zoos in the country, remains the continuing focus of NAZG.’’
Ehanire said with the neglect visited on these natural centres that NAZG is calling on the government to implement some of the recommendations, which were presented through a memo in 2012 to the National Council on Tourism meeting held in Ilorin, Kwara State, “where it was advocated for priority to be given to these recreational centres through the national tourism master plan and the national tourism intervention fund in order to ensure a front-line attention and funding for them.”

Furthermore, Ehanire explained that there is need to include conservation study or awareness in the curriculum of schools and seek for ways to engage the teeming population of youths in the country even as he insisted that ‘‘this incident in Jos Wildlife Park is thus another wake up call for the authorities in conservation and tourism development to engage the developmental challenges in this key sector that also provides a veritable parameter for measuring a humane society.’’  

Being a chef is not about glamour- Chef Magnus

Jimoh Babatunde
Asking him to tell you how he got into the hospitality industry puts a childish smile on his face as he gladly tells you that he was born into it as his parents were both chefs back in their native country of Sweden, “my parents had restaurants in Sweden were I had to do anything from moving the lawn, washing the dishes and peel potatoes to get some extra pocket money from about the age of 12.”
Magnus literally grew up in hotels and restaurants. These early childhood experiences ignited a passion for food in the young Magnus. It was therefore not surprising that like his parents, Magnus developed an uncanny passion for food leading to an early career in the field, he equally saw in the profession an opportunity to be able to travel to different countries of the world.
Not wanting to loss such opportunities, he needed to sharpen his skills before moving out so he enrolled in a college , “after 2 years in collage I got thrown in the deep end of restaurants and was working 16 hours a day to learn as much as I could.
“Most days it was one restaurant in the morning and then another in the evening. Looking back there was no hard times in being screamed at by the senior chefs , its only good, fun memories that built up the old school generation of chefs. It was all though but fun.”
He knew early in life that being a chef is a life style which goes with pressure and he was fully prepared for such life. Magnus said he realized that as a chef one needs to work long hour for low pay for many years as “It’s not the glamour you see on TV.”
So, Magnus started his career early, working his way through some of the top restaurants in Sweden, including training at the word famous “Johanna’s” a Michelin Star Restaurant.
In 1994 Magnus decided to take his career “on the road” and moved to London. Here he worked at the famous “Mogens Tulstrup” and “Sir Terrence Conran” where he focused on honing his ala Carte’ and exclusive catering skills.
Magnus then decided to try his hand at managing his own restaurant in London. Although successful, after five years, he decided it was time for a new chapter in his career and moved to China as the Executive Chef at the Dalian Hotel.
‘This was a very exciting period in my career,” says Magnus, as he recalled his sojourn in China. ‘‘Asian cuisine amazed me both in its complexity but also in its simplicity. It is an experience which remains part of my repertoire.”
Following a successful couple of years in the Far East, Magnus returned to the United Kingdom to work for the famous “Chef Christian Sandefeldt”. He assisted Chef Sandfeldt with several projects, ranging from Chef Sandefeldt’s world famous fine dining restaurants, to the innovative “Gastro Pub” concept. During the three years, Magnus was part of several new openings, under the “Sandfeldt” banner.
At the start of the new the millennium, Magnus decided to follow his heart to Africa. He joins the world famous Irish Chef, Conrad Gallagher, the youngest three Star Michelin Chef in the World, here he assisted Conrad, who was Group Executive Chef for Sun International, the leading Hotel and Casino Operator in South Africa.
Focusing on redesigning the food concept for the group, Magnus’s travels took him across Sub Sahara Africa, from the world famous Sun City, to the Royal Livingstone at the Victoria Falls in Zambia, to one of the top Leading Hotels of the World, the famous Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.
It was from South Africa that Magnus moved to the west region, this time to Nigeria where he pitched tent with the Federal Towers in Victoria Island, Lagos and later to Abuja Sheraton Hotel where he presently entices the people with his delight some culinary skills. “I relish the opportunity to be part of a dynamic management team,’’ says the culinary expert of his Abuja Sheraton Hotel move. ‘
‘Nigeria has always been close to my heart and I think it will be difficult to find more eager to learn and receptive people anywhere in the world than it is here. I think African cuisine is on the verge of joining the main stream cuisines across the world and I am privileged to play my small part in it.”
Asked what his philosophy is when it comes to food, Magnus will tell you he belongs to the school of thoughts that believes the food should speak for itself. “Don’t over complicate. When you have good ingredients let them speak for themselves.”
To him food is all about being together, so anything that is cooked at home with the family is his favourite. So, he tells you happily that his favourite home cooked meal is fried herring with mashed potato and lingonberry. Though not an early morning eater, Magnus' ideal breakfast is coffee.

On a lighter note, asked him what his funniest kitchen incident was, he answered “when we had an outside function for 1000 people in a game reserve 7km from the unit and the rain start and we have to move all food and set up to the unit again and be ready in time for their dinner.”