Chef, Pius Zondani, from Central African Wilderness Safaris recently took to the skies over Malawi on his very first flight to explore different kitchens and learn from his peers across the country.
Meals – how, when and what is served – can make or break a safari experience for guests. Kitchen staff at the lodges and camps of Central African Wilderness Safaris constantly strive to get this right. Each chef has their own style of preparing the finest dishes, are committed to surpassing guests’ expectations and take great pride in what they produce, often in challenging situations.
To facilitate a growing passion and commitment to their craft, these dedicated professionals sometimes travel between CAWS properties, meeting colleagues and learning from different kitchen environments.
Boarding the plane for Chelinda Lodge in Nyika National Park, Pius confessed, “I’m a little afraid to be so far above the earth, but can’t wait to see Nyika”. After an overnight stop on the beautiful Likoma Island, and an overlay in Mzuzu to wait for the clouds to part, Ulendo Airlink delivered him safely to Chelinda Airport. “Arriving in Nyika was so amazing”, said Pius, “it’s more beautiful than I thought”.
Pius joined the team in 2011 as a gardener, quickly showing commitment and enthusiasm, which saw him become a star in the Heuglin’s Lodge kitchen in Lilongwe, with his specialty being creating delicious desserts.
Chelinda’s kitchens make use of Dover wood-burning stoves that are kept alive with ample supply of non-indigenous pine wood. For Pius, this meant learning to work with hotter cooking temperatures and a variation of cooking techniques. At 8000 feet above sea level and nearly 200km from the nearest grocery store, Chelinda’s menu planning is challenging. The chefs, together with the gardeners, painstakingly manage an impressive vegetable garden that offers a surprising selection of fresh fare, from spinach to strawberries. “It’s so inspiring to be able to walk to the gardens and harvest the vegetables, fruits and herbs we need for our dishes”, says Lodge Manager, Johan.
With the festive season successfully completed, Pius returned to Lilongwe by road, with a host of new friends, recipes and a greater understanding of Malawi’s extraordinary geography, flora and fauna as well as a greater appreciation for the challenges his colleagues face in the Chelinda kitchen.
Images courtesy of Pam Badger, Peter Makwana and Werner Reynecke.