Born Ali Mandhry 27 years ago, he is a celebrity chef, food journalist,owner of L’artiste Pastry Factory and ambassador of Kenya Chef Association. Ali started cooking at the age of 9, and sold cakes he baked to friends and fellow students at the age of 12. The culinary graduate from Kenya Utalii was recently named among the top 5 reigning chefs of African cuisine by Africa Style Daily. Currently, he hosts a cooking show on Pumwani TV dubbed Food Time and Celebrity Kitchen Raid on Zuku.
Ali spoke to Edge Magazine about how it feels to be a celebrity chef gracing TV cook shows, the importance of being the best at what he does and how he intends to refine the African cuisine and never look back. “I started cooking ever since I can remember. My mother says as a little kid I used to hang around the kitchen even when other kids would go out and play in the field,” he begins.
He was cooking food by the age of 9, and at 12 years he was a master junior chef, baking cakes and selling to friends and relatives at a small fee. Ali was inspired a great deal by his grandfather, who he says was a great cook. He studied him more often.
After high school he had an option of doing fine arts but chose culinary. Since then it has been a whirlwind journey for him. He enrolled at Utalli College and later joined Sarova Whitesands at the age of 17 as an apprentice chef. He graduated top of his class and was appointed as a culinary lecturer at Utalii College teaching culinary arts and entrepreneurship at 22 years. He would later opt out after two years.
It was also at this time that he worked with his celebrity Chef Osama El-Sayed on Dubai TV which paved way to his name being featured in the International Hall of fame in the USA. It later saw his appointment as Kenya’s Ambassador by the Kenya Chefs Association.
As denoted by his brand name Chef Ali L’Artiste, he is an artist. “I draw, sketch and design which I have done since I was a young kid. I can look at something and draw it exactly for a portrait,” he says.
He fuses his art skills with culinary one as he considers cooking as an art. “Food appeals to the eye first before tasting. Sometimes a meal would be really nice but then plating would be sham. You have to have some art on the plate and arrange everything to be appealing and pleasing to the eye.”
As such, he always makes the best out of his cooking. He loves creating and mixing different flavours and ingredients to ensure that he comes up with something special. According to him, nothing satisfies a chef more than a happy and appreciative client.
Indulging Although being a chef is time consuming as there are long hours involved in preparation and cooking, he confesses that it has moulded him into a focused individual. He manages his time and day well.
“I wake up at 5:00 am and perform my morning prayers. I then go out for a jog or the gym after which I come back and prepare breakfast for my little girl before hitting the office. My day is usually unstructured where I spend most time in the kitchen trying different cuisines and keep myself abreast with the latest trends in the profession. There are days I spend filming my shows and others in meetings. My day at work usually ends at 6:00 pm after which I rush for my evening prayers before heading home,” he shares.
Through his TV and radio shows he aims to educate a wide audience. He offers free online cooking to selected schools and pupils, and also children who are less fortunate and physically disabled.