H&S Chef Of The Month: Meet Chef Sarah Atieno
H&S Chef Of The Month
Interview With H&S Magazine
Who Is Sarah Atieno?
I am a stay at home twenty-six-year-old mother to one, an operations assistant, writer, and chef. There aren’t many words to describe me but a passionate foodie, who walks and speaks the language of food does it.
Type Of Cuisine?
I’d say this is difficult for me as I love a touch of everything, but If I was made to choose I’d say continental with a twist of African. I am all over the place when it comes to food, I love the amazingly different flavours, textures and traditional methods of preparing meals, so choosing a speciality for me, is one difficult task.
What Inspired You To Become A Chef?
Growing up as a first child, I was tasked with the responsibility of helping my mother around, more especially in the kitchen. When she made chapatis, I’d be adding oil to the pan and flipping them to the other side; you should have seen the joy on my face when everyone appreciated the crispiness and taste; the satisfaction that came from what cooked was unexplainable.
Years later, I’d cook chapatis and sell them to my lectures at Kenyatta University, more especially to one Dr. Alice Ondigi, who would pay me handsomely to make them in bulk. The fact that I loved great food but could not sometimes afford it during my days in campus, pushed me into trying to replicate the same at home, and that’s how I found myself with the title chef.
What Is The Biggest Challenge You Have Faced In The Culinary Industry?
My biggest challenge so far has been getting my hands on quality ingredients. One quality ingredient in a meal can be a big game changer, some are not locally available either. I’ve had to import pure vanilla pods to make my own vanilla extract, getting quality raw ingredients has proven to be a challenge for me. I try to shop for spices and any ingredient I may need back home when I travel to countries/places that have them in plenty.
What’s Your Biggest Achievement In The Culinary Industry?
My biggest achievement in the culinary industry, is when I went solo in the beginning of this year to become a private chef. I currently run my business Sa’Gene for Foods, a cloud kitchen offering state-of-the-art meals and desserts that cover a wide range of clientele’s needs. The versatility of running my business has helped me achieve a long term dream of mine, which is to be there for my daughter when she wakes up, leaves and comes back from school. I am now able to spend some quality time with her, unlike before when I’d leave way too early and come home late when she was already asleep. It gives me immense joy and pride watching my six-year-old daughter take interest in what I do, she’s become my little marketer
especially at her school, where I now bake pastries for students’ birthdays and school functions held.
When It comes To Cooking, What Is More Important To You, The Technique, The Ingredients Or The Creativity?
A great meal is a combination of the three, some ingredients can not be compromised if a desired flavour and texture is to be acquired, this brings in the technique factor then creativity. So for me, it is the perfect balance of all three to achieve the target results.
Recipe Of The Week: Spicy Carrot Cake
• 1½ cups of dark brown sugar
• ½ cup of granulated sugar
• 1 cup vegetable oil
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 cups of roughly chopped walnuts or any nuts of choice (optional)
• 4 large eggs (at room temperature)
• 3 cups of all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp salt
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 2 tsp cinnamon powder
• 1½ tsp freshly ground ginger
• ½ tsp ground nutmeg
• ½tsp all spice mix
• 2½ cups of grated carrots
The Cream Cheese Frosting
• 400g cream cheese (room temperature)
• 115g unsalted butter (room temperature)
• 450g icing sugar
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
Preparation: The Carrot Cake
Preheat oven to 150 °C, and line your baking pan with baking paper/non-stick spray. Next, in a large bowl, combine brown and granulated sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk the above until fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, sift in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice mix. Pour in the wet mixed ingredients into the dry and mix just until almost incorporated (be careful not to over mix as this will make the cake dense). Fold in the freshly ground ginger, carrots and 1 cup of nuts (if using, reserve the other cup for topping). Next, gently fold until just incorporated. Pour batter evenly into the baking pans & bake at 180C for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the toothpick comes out sticky with batter, bake for another five minutes until it’s cooked through (time varies on the temperature of the oven). Remove cake from pan once cooked through and place on a
rack to cool before cutting through & applying frosting.
Preparation: The Cream Cheese Frosting
In a mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter on medium-high until pale and fluffy for about 3 to 5 minutes. Next, lower speed, scrape the sides of the bowl and gradually add the icing sugar followed by the vanilla extract. Once sugar is fully incorporated, increase speed to high and beat for another 5 minutes till it’s smooth and creamy in
texture. The frosting should be thick but spreadable.
Assembling & Plating
To assemble, use a serrated bread knife to cut the cooled cakes in halves. Spread the cream cheese frosting evenly and stack cake layers on top, repeating the process till all the cake layers are done. Spread the rest of the frosting on the sides and on top of the cake to crumb coat. Garnish with nuts as you desire. Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.