The art of preparing a royal menu…Carl Joshua to put Zimbabwe on a plate for Nkayi

31 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
The art of preparing a royal menu…Carl Joshua to put Zimbabwe on a plate for Nkayi Carl Joshua Ncube

The Sunday News

Bruce Ndlovu , Sunday Life Reporter

WHEN he gets into the kitchen next weekend at the Chief Dakamela Appreciation Awards, Carl Joshua Ncube plans to give the Nkayi traditional leader and his distinguished guests a taste of Zimbabwe.

So how does one fit an entire country, with its diverse customs, languages and traditions onto one plate? Ncube, a chef, comedian and tourism ambassador rolled into one, believes he has the answer.

Over the last few years, Ncube has found himself gravitating towards his roots, abandoning Western ingredients for local elements as he seeks to titillate Zimbabwean taste buds with his twist on dishes that have been ignored but not forgotten.

In a country where Western cuisine is revered and somewhat exulted, this might be a thankless task for a chef.

However, for Ncube, food is like a thread that is meant to run through all the diverse people of Zimbabwe, uniting them into one.

Next week, he plans to be the weaver directing this thread to do his culinary bidding.

In Nkayi, Ncube plans to filter out all Western influences and dish out Zimbabwe to guests who might have forgotten the dishes that used to dominate menus in yesteryear feasts. Instead of the famed seven colours, a staple of wedding and Christmas parties around the country, Ncube wants to put the flag of Zimbabwe on a plate.

“I will be cooking for the VIPs and that is between 100-150 guests that will be attending,” he said in an interview.

“My menu will be a celebration of Zimbabwean ingredients, not so much traditional dishes. So I will be taking ingredients that one would traditionally see being cooked in a certain way and doing something very different with them. I’m going to be doing a mix of our traditional meals and celebrating the colours of our national flag. So, you will see a lot of beautiful colours. You will see, red, black, white, green and then you will see a lot of browns because we are cooking a lot of meat on the day.”

Ncube said on the day, guests would have to embrace both the past and the present, as he believes that a mixture of the two gives the country an idea of its culinary future.

“So, the approach to the traditional menu is inspired by the fact that over the years, I have done a lot of cookbooks and these books have started to lean towards increasingly the use of traditional ingredients, particularly with sustainability in mind. So, we are not going to be doing the traditional isitshwala but instead, we will be using several traditional grains that you normally don’t find on the VIP’s table. We are looking at millet, sorghum and all these other grains that are going to be processed in a different way.

“We are also going to be a more communal style of eating and running away from the buffet style that people are now used to which I feel is very Eurocentric. I know in the past, we used to eat and share from the same plate and so we are going to be doing the same thing here. We will be putting the dishes on the tables and allowing people to pass them around and share. It’s a merger of old meets new because when it comes to preparing meals, I like to look at the past, the present and then create a culinary experience for the future,” he said.

With 10 beasts set for slaughter, Ncube said while his attention will be mostly on the VIP table, he was looking forward to the collaboration between various villagers who are set to join the festivities.

“I’ve been doing quite a lot of research with regards to traditional food and about how it applies to tourism and how visitors can be welcomed into our villages in such a way that makes food part of the reason why they travel. With Chief Dakamela what has happened is that he has put aside 10 cattle to be slaughtered so there’s a menu that’s being created for pretty much everyone. Several different villages are attending and each village has a designated cow, with each of them cooking their dishes so that’s going to be great. It will be lovely to see the collaborations that take place there,” he said.

Ncube said the feast will also allow him to share his cooking techniques with the rest of the country, as students from various tertiary institutions will be in attendance.

“We want something that speaks to a new Zimbabwe in terms of food. We also want something that speaks to me as a chef and to me as an artiste. We want something distinctive to Chef Carl that other people will begin to study. I know Chief Dakamela has also graciously been working with our local institutions of learning so we also have some students who are coming to learn what my techniques are when it comes to food preparation.

“I focus on what we call the six Ts and that is taste, texture, time, temperature, technique and also theatre. When I say theatre, I am talking about how the food is presented and the emotional reaction or excitement it draws from people when it is put in front of them. So those are the kind of things that we will be looking at when we are doing the food at the Appreciation Awards,” he said.

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