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Food and Travel: Over the Rainbow!

TWENTY-two-year old Jubilee Marufu, from Gweru but currently cooking at Rainbow Victoria Falls Hotel was over the proverbial rainbow to hear she’d come top in Rainbow Tourism Group’s chef of the year competition at Kadoma last weekend.

She beat several mainly male colleagues from Zimbabwe and Zambia with her attractive, tasty entries. Starter was Mexican stuffed chicken breast (poached huku breast stuffed with green peppers, carrots and onions and a mildly hot Chili Bovril-based sauce) an odd combination of flavours and textures which paradoxically worked.
Entrée from the Midlands lass who told me she was “born to cook” comprised rare beef medallion with Parisienne potatoes and button vegetables in a red wine jus.
Jubilee won a complete satellite TV kit and a year’s subscription, kitchen utensils, cash and a six-month study secondment to a top South African hotel. Making the awards were RTG group operations director Lewis Chasakara, group training chef Tranos Moyo and Kadoma Hotel and Conference Centre’s GM Paula January.
The eight “super chef” finalists were drawn from RTG hotels and lodges throughout the region, including their two Zambian properties: The Edinburgh Hotel, Kitwe and Hotel Savoy, Ndola.
Highly critical judges were Master Chef Chris Gonzo, president Zimbabwe Chefs’ Association and executive chef Meikles Hotel; Chef Gerald Chichori, lecturer at the Hotel and Catering School Bulawayo; Chef Irene Moyo, who lectures at Rainbow Hotel Business School; Chef Johnson Maruma, training chef for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and myself.
There were more “chefs” than at a Zanu PF bunfight!
As my judicial inputs and sagacity were confined to aspects of taste and final presentation, I soon made my excuses from a packed kitchen as hot as Hell, watching preparation stage and cooking on a CCTV link on the hotel verandah, where there was at least a suggestion of a breeze on a day as debilitating as any in the Zambezi Valley.
It was the first time I’d spent more than 20 minutes or half an hour within Kadoma’s municipal boundaries. (Can you credit it, Kadoma — ex-Gatooma, often referred to as “Gay”-tooma in the good-old-bad-old-days, before the first part of that nickname changed meanings, is now allegedly a “city”?)
I admit finding it difficult to be totally objective about judging the taste of esculent creations often fairly long after they’ve left the oven, grill, frying pan or pot to be stacked, placed in towers, generally tarted up and admired.
Supposedly hot food is by that –– ultra critical — stage of judging anything between tepid and flat cold…often greasily unpalatable.
But….a veteran of many cooking competitions…the show must go on; we poor judges do our humble best.
Paula January revealed she has a sister, Julia January, who once wrote me a snotty letter about my overdraft from Standard-Chartered Bank, AUSQ. I had the Misses January confused.
Paula used to be at the New Ambassador Hotel in Harare, a place I misspent a vast slice of my comparative youth, but a venue I now enter by choice maybe once in five years.
Lewis Chasakara told me there is little progress with RTG’s new venue in Uganda –– a hotel and conference centre –– a project which has been on the go at least since his predecessor, Dave Church’s watch. He also said that the new hotel being built by NSSA in Beitbridge –– at one time slated to profit from the 2010 World Cup “overspill”–– will miss the football showcase by many months.
It had suffered from a major cholera outbreak on-site and work also ground to a halt towards the end of Zim dollar days, when contractors were unable to buy supplies in the already discredited local unit, but couldn’t source sufficient forex.
My own feeling— often stated –– was that a hotel in Beitbridge was as unlikely to benefit from World Cup games as the unfinished one in Uganda! How could you bank on even being able to cross the chaotic frontier in time to see a match in Pretoria or Rustenburg?
Regular users of that route confirm my own last two experiences of needing anything between seven and 10 hours to get across. Since then we have used the Botswana route or flown.
Incidentally, almost everyone I met in Europe in May this year who were then “definitely” coming to 2010 to cheer on England, Germany…or whichever by Christmas had totally dropped the idea when faced with the crippling costs of actually flying to South Africa, accommodation, entertainment and travel between stadia, sometimes thousands of kilometres apart. TV there also caused much security concerns, for instance interviewing tsotsis who were “looking forward” to robbing soccer tourists. The Togo team murders in Cabinda, frankly, didn’t help either.
Breathtakingly dramatically clear 3D TV will be readily available in Europe in a few weeks’ time and pressure from fans’ wives will be on to buy a set, which may last half a lifetime, at about the same price as the cheapest package deal airline seat from London to OR Tambo.
3DTV soccer was launched in a limited number of pubs, the day I left London and all feedback received suggests it will be a tremendous winner. “Ordinary” sets are now at giveaway prices.
Comair, which operates the few remaining British Airways flights in and out of Zimbabwe, is to expand its African route network and will soon start scheduled flights from Johannesburg to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Walvis Bay, Namibia.
The group was awarded the rights by the South African Air Licensing Council and flights will add to Comair’s existing regional African network from OR Tambo to Harare, Victoria Falls. Livingstone, Windhoek and Mauritius.
“Granting of these new licences will bring much-needed competition to regional African routes, which have been dominated by government-owned airlines.  Increased competition will also make for more competitive fare pricing, improved service levels and additional choice for customers,” said Stuart Cochrane, Comair’s executive manager sales and route development.
Comair is finalising schedules for these routes and will inform customers when bookings open. 
dustym@zimind.co.zw

 

Dusty Miller

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