Being a chef is a lifestyle and those venturing into the industry should try by all means to not see it as a job, but a career where they gain a lot of experience.
Chef and food connoisseur Christopher Isaaks, who operates from Droombos Exclusive Lodge, also advised aspiring chefs to not do it because it pays good money, saying: “Do it because you are passionate about it. If it is not your passion, you won’t be able to deliver; it has to be a passion”.
Isaaks said it is also important for those in the industry to be more innovative and try out new things.
“We are not innovative; nobody wants to try new things. If you go to any restaurant in the capital, they are selling the same stuff. It’s always steak and chips – and this gets boring to customers, and that’s why they are trying out new things,” he noted.
With over 25 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Isaaks spent most of that time – 15 years – working in the United Kingdom, doing catering, working for Chinese eateries and cooking for the likes of Prince Andrew and others. He also worked for the Namibian Wildlife Resorts as a food and beverage specialist.
“Being in the food industry is something I always enjoy doing because what you are passionate about, you do well,” he recalled.
After extensive training in Cape Town, Isaaks decided to come back to Namibia in 2016 in an attempt to revive the food business by applying methods learned and acquired abroad, which includes using a smoker to prepare food.
“I love cooking with fire – using fire as a source because it flavours your food; it puts the food in a whole different category than on a grill and oven,” he said passionately.
Having made a smoker himself, Isaaks said he was disappointed that smoking as a cooking method is not so common in Namibia.
“So, in 2016, I decided to come and invest back into my country because I noticed that when you want to be competitive, the food must be competitive – and that’s something that was missing,” he shared.
Isaaks added that he invested in making the smoker and has been using it for the past three years; starting by making and selling smoked meats at markets.
“For now, I don’t have a permanent restaurant structure but I have a joint venture with the owners of Droombos, who have been so amazing,” he explained.
Something else he has been dedicating time to is having sessions with young food enthusiasts to instil a sense of pride and love for the industry.
“I take in a lot of youngsters who are passionate about the craft to impart knowledge unto them. I need to do that because I don’t want to be 50 years and still doing this; I always try to pass on the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years so that the next generation can be stronger, and so that we can have more locals doing it.”
He said: “Most people think because they didn’t complete their school, they can tap into the food industry – and that is a wrong perception. I want to change that. You need to be proud of what you are. It’s a surviving industry and you serve people; you have to be good at what you do. You do get customers who come to eating establishments and prefer a certain waiter, why? Because they are good at what they do – and they do it effortlessly”.