We’re continuing our series on the African bush this week by highlighting the incredible cuisine and the talented chefs of the bush with an interview with Michael Matera, Senior Sous Chef at Singita Sasakwa Lodge and the 2012 recent recipient of the Tanzania Chef of the Year Award.
If you desire, each meal in the bush is an event and worth every indulgence. A large spread of eggs, granolas, yogurts, pastries, fruit, and fresh squeezed juices greet you upon returning from an early morning game drive while midday meals are light and fresh. Dinners involve several courses and come in the form of private meals under the stars, a traditional meal served in the boma, or gathered around the table, sharing stories from the day’s activities. Each safari lodge serves up their food differently, but the common thread throughout is talented chefs and dedicated kitchen staff who pride themselves on preparing fresh, innovative dishes for our clients to enjoy meal after meal.
Michael Matera’s story is an interesting one. The oldest son in his family, Michael knew he would have to secure a job to help provide for the family. He started started at Singita Sabora Tented Camp as a ground attendant cleaning the swimming pool and tending to the grounds but was recognized by the head chef andy Clay for his work ethic. He was asked to help out in the kitchen, preparing meals for the camp staff. Inspired by the food he saw coming into the kitchen, such as lobster and prawns, he was eager to learn more. He attended at two week English class in Arusha and, upon his return, was invited to work in the guest kitchen. The rest, as they say, is history.
How long have to been a chef with Singita?
I have been with Singita since they started in Tanzania, but before Singita came I have already worked with Grumeti Reserves. It’s been a wonderful relationship of over 10 years.
What is your favorite local ingredient to cook with?
Cassava, I can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cassava is a woody shrub with a edible starchy root that resembles a sweet potato. You can use cassava fresh or dry and cook it in many different ways, my favorite being dried and cooked as a porridge.
Is there a signature dish you like to prepare for guests?
I love making homemade pastas as it is so versatile.
What is your philosophy on cooking?
My philosophy is to keep food uncomplicated and as fresh as possible.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your dishes?
I am always on the lookout for fresh ideas, books, magazines, restaurants and people all inspires me.
Are there any up and coming restaurants in Tanzania that we should be on the lookout for?
There are new places opening up all the time, currently love Fig and Olive and Blue Herron in Arusha.
Michael with Frank Louw, Executive Chef at Singita Sasakwa Lodge