(image:Mamake Bobo)

Hello,  I need your advice,  the photo on the left was taken by a professional photographer using a high end camera, I took the one on the right with my phone. Should I get a professional to be taking the photos or should I stick to my phone?

Such a post is a common feature on Upishi zone, a Facebook Community that discusses food coming from the members’ kitchens.  Members are open, straightforward, at times too straightforward, but most of it is in good faith, and is taken in good stride. The above statement was left there one evening sometimes back by Mamake Bobo, the community’s founder, and not moderator per se, but someone who keeps things moving, and the cobwebs out. The members more or less moderate the conversations themselves.

Responses to her question came flooding in, sharply divided; some said stick to your phone with slight adjustments, some said try the photographer, some said get a different photographer. She took each under advisement, taking the time to individually respond to almost all of them. This is her family, a close-knit group of around 32k culinary enthusiasts that she started close to a year ago.  Here, if you need an opinion on something culinary, you only need to put it up on the group, feedback is guaranteed.

Here are the mandazi I just made for our late afternoon snack. They are lighter because I did this and this.

Here are the pork ribs I made my friend who just paid me a visit. And this is how you make them.

This simplicity, familiarity is the soul of this group. People make all kinds of dishes and share them here, with little pretensions. They are honest with their desires and wishes. It makes people feel they belong. It gives them a sense of ownership of the space.They care about what is shared in there, and each other’s progress. That is not far from the founder’s motivation for establishing it.

More than a year back, Lorna went to her boss and told him she was quitting. She was saying bye to a good salary and commissions. They were not enough. She wanted more.

I told her I had one year to make mistakes.

That was the time that remained before her daughter started school. Early this year, she comfortably took her to school. The mistakes had started paying off.

She had resigned because of of her love of all things culinary. She wanted to experiment with the love and business of food, and she wanted to try something different, unconventional, and was clueless how it would turn out. She is doing exactly that today. And a big part of that is undertaken through Upishi Zone. Her desire is to help get a wide array of culinary experiences to Kenyan dinner tables.  She does this by ensuring people know that most of the dishes they hear about or eat when dining out are things they are familiar with, or they can be able to pull off after a few attempts.

In a nutshell, she simplifies dishes. She explains ways of making dishes that otherwise have complex names in a simple terms that anybody can understand.

“chicken cordon bleu is basically a stuffed chicken dish.”

She also shares ways of  making common meals interesting.

“If you google how to make soft layered chapatis, this menu I shared on my dormant blog comes first. I never did any SEO on it.”

 

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This common feel that she lends to exotic dishes is what is appealing to people. It shows that you do not need to be chef-extraordinaire to make some dishes. That is her intention.

I do the opposite of what most chefs do. They make dishes so complex that people who are not exposed to culinary terms or fine dining find it hard to understand. This way, the beauty of that food is lost to most people. But I take a complex dish and simplify it. I explain it in simple basic terms; common names that people are used to. They therefore know what the dish is.

They get to experiment cooking it, if they are interested, because she shares her simple recipes.

The members like it. They are able to cook the various dishes shared by her, and other members. That was the aim with the community, as opposed to a fan page. It allows her and the members to learn from one another, and share their progress.It is working. She gets gushy fan mail, sometimes  from women confessing their marriages were saved after they started diversifying their cooking. Or, their husbands started  eating at home.

Or, members enthusiastically sharing the outcome of their latest culinary experiment, to equally enthusiastic feedback.

What did you use to make the mandazis a shade lighter?

Even with photography aesthetics;

you should take photos under natural light as opposed to artificial, it makes the food more natural.

Last year, she published a simplified recipe e-book, a reflection of how she cooks at home. It sold more than 2000 copies the first two months it was out. It still sells up to date. She also has a second book out,and a  cooking show on the way.

Her main income earner is her catering business. She caters at events, weddings mostly.

“One of my best moments is when a bride calls me after the wedding to say they loved the food.”

She is also able, as are other members of the community, to marshal a team and resources from the community. People come through for each other.

Her ultimate plan is to go into production; start manufacturing spices and condiments locally. She is optimistic it will go well. For now, her wish of having more variety o the Kenyan dining table is on course. The little internet corner that she is thriving with members who are quite active.

 

2 Comment

  1. Mamake bobo says: Reply

    Lovely piece

  2. Julie nyakundi says: Reply

    Love reading your story always God continue blessing you Mamake Bobo.

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