As the middle class and tourism industry grow in Uganda, so, too, do the number of restaurants and high-end hotels. The owners of these establishments, however, have often had to recruit executive chefs from neighboring countries like Kenya and Tanzania, because there has been a shortage of well-trained kitchen personnel in Uganda.
Slowly but surely, this is changing.
It’s a problem that is not immediately associated with a low-income country such as Uganda, but there’s a shortage of Ugandan chefs. In recent years the restaurant and tourism industry have grown quite rapidly - and as a result, the demand for well-trained kitchen personnel also has grown.
Qualified chefs have been difficult to find, according to Jean Byamugisha of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association. "The biggest challenge has been capacity building. People really need a lot of training, especially now that we’re competing at East African level.”
To fill the gap, many restaurants have resorted to hiring executive chefs from neighboring countries like Kenya, to lead the kitchen staff. And it was here that Kenyan Enock Alumasi, director of Impacts Chef Academy, saw a gap in the market that desperately needed to be filled.
“They were asking us to bring chefs from Kenya. So we decided instead of bringing chefs from Kenya, we get trainers from Kenya and we set up an academy. We began the academy in 2013,” said Alumasi.
The Impact Chef’s Academy is the only school in Uganda that offers a full chef’s-training program. It provides a variety of programs — from one-week refresher courses for those who already have a career to a year-long fulltime training course.
These students are learning the different ways to fry an egg. It may sound like something that comes naturally to a chef, but some kitchen personnel on their first day have never fried an egg before.
"They send in these interns but when they send them, they’re only there for three months," said chef Brian Kazibwe. "And in three months they have to rotate over five departments. By the time they get to the kitchen, which is the last part of it, they are only remaining for two or three weeks, which is not really enough for them.”
Though the Impact Chef’s Academy has trained more than 3000 people in the past two years, Byamugisha said the need continues to grow.
“The impact is not yet felt. A one-week training for a chef is nothing," she said. "We need somebody who can come in two months, six months, nine months and train the chefs and release somebody who can actually come to a hotel and prepare a meal that everybody will fall over themselves to pay for.”
And now that the academy has gotten a taste of success, it looks forward to expanding.