MEET THE CHEF: April Dodd, founder of Open Table Cooking School

By: WACEKE NDUATI OMANGA

April Dodd, founder and head instructor at Open Table Cooking School, Nairobi

How did you become a chef?

I started cooking and baking in university because I wanted an excuse to bring my friends together. I have worked in restaurants and catering companies in the US as well as at several bakeries in Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne in France.

What would you be doing if you were not a chef?

I’d be an English or French teacher.

Who inspires you?

It’s not a person, but a bakery in New York City – Hot Bread Kitchen, where immigrant women are taught how to bake.

They work on recipes from their home countries and the profits are used to fund job placement programmes, English lessons and professional training.

I’d love to start such an initiative someday; it is important to me that food not only nourishes the people eating it, but also the people cooking it.

Which celebrity would you like to cook for?

I had the honour of cooking for and serving His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2013. I’d love to cook for Michelle Obama.

Which Kenyan dish do you enjoy?

I love sukuma wiki. My students say I’m crazy for proposing that we use chopped sukuma wiki in lasagna or with ricotta ravioli, but I love the flavour—it’s more flavourful than spinach, and sautes so well.

What’s the secret to a perfect sponge cake?

Don’t overcook it. Like all cakes, sponge cakes continue cooking after they come out of the oven, so you have to be careful not to bake it for too long—otherwise, it’ll be crumbly instead of spongy.

Which are your three favourite restaurants in the world?

The Bobcat Cafe, in Vermont, US, Trout Tree in Nanyuki, and Chowpaty in Parklands, Nairobi.

What tips would you give our readers?

Many times people say, “I’m a terrible cook” but if you can read, you can cook. Pick a good recipe, read through it carefully and follow the steps. You’ll be amazed how simple even the most complex recipes turn out to be.

Which 5 ingredients are never missing from your kitchen?

Tea, sugar, mustard, homemade mayonnaise and balsamic vinegar.

– TRICIA WANJALA

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Honey lemon cake

Bake in a loaf pan or as muffins.

INGREDIENTS

2 eggs

½ cup yoghurt

75 ml oil

170 ml honey

160 g flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp salt

Grated lemon zest from 1 large lemon

METHOD

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then add yoghurt, oil, honey, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir until they are combined. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Stir until the flour is fully mixed to make batter. Pour the batter in a bread pan or into cupcake liners. Bake loaf for 45-50 minutes, or cupcakes for 20 minutes or until a fork stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Let the cake or muffins cool and serve with jam.

– APRIL DODD

SOURCE: DAILY NATION