Kitchen confidential


2.07 p.m. I’m in the back of the kitchen at Nyama Mama Delta, Westy.

Chef Les – Lesiamon Sempele, executive chef here – walks up to me with the exhaustion of a surgeon who’s been in open heart surgery for 78 hours. Like something you’d see on TV, on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. His hands hang helpless to either side. The look is his eyes is like something of a victory conquered, a battle won.

I’m where I’ve been standing for the past 15 minutes or more. To a corner of the show kitchen. I’d been in the back kitchen earlier. And to the alley beyond the backdoor, where I imagine the chefs nip in for a smoke or loose banter during non-service hours. Chef Les would later show me the cold room, and the condiments refrigerators, and that little swinging gate where EverythingFresh delivers fruit and veg every morning.

I’m the only one who’d been standing still. Looking out of place. Mostly mute. Nobody else in the kitchen had been rooted to one spot for more than a few seconds.

Kitchens at lunch – and dinner – service don’t function like that. Chefs themselves don’t function like that. Part of the requirements of the job is that you must be restless and be able to withstand the strain of working on your feet all day. A bad back wouldn’t cut it in the kitchen. A recovering fractured hip wouldn’t cut it. Neither would a broken toe, a sprained ankle, a dislocated knee. Below-the-waist injuries of any kind are generally a keep off from the kitchen.

It’s another reason why kitchens don’t have benches or seats, like what you have in your kitchen at home – some wobbly ugly-blue Kenpoly stool for your Help to chill on as she waits for the beef to boil.  A commercial kitchen doesn’t have room for one or need for any. A chair in a kitchen as this is like having an elephant napping on your living room rug. It’s obstructing, misplaced and rather silly.

Chef Les exhales and tells me, “Lunch service is over.”

I unclench my butt cheeks.

An hour before, at 1.12 p.m., me and the photographer on this project – Mburu – burst through the doors to the kitchen like two bulls charging at the matador’s capote. It’s a maroon door, the door that separates the sanity of the restaurant’s dining room from the insanity of the backhouse in the kitchen. A door that reads, ‘Authorised personnel only’. I’d never burst through such a door before. I didn’t know what lay beyond it.

Pause here I ask you a question. You ever crossed the Busia border to Uganda on foot? (OK, not really on foot. You took a Modern Coast bus, disembarked at the border to show your papers to border security then walked.) Or to Rwanda at the Gatuna border? Have you ever stood at the Viewpoint in Naivasha, where a fault line of the Great Rift Valley runs kilometres beneath your feet? Or at points where you’re told the Equator is crossing? Like that spot in Ol Pejeta Conservancy?

You stand there and sort of expect something of a profundity. A moment where there’s a metaphysical shift of some kind. Maybe a tingle in your skin. Or an alignment of your atoms to the spirituality of Mother Earth. Or you start to see the horizon in the fifth dimensions of technicolour. Like some sort of nirvana, as you hear the heavens crack open.

Yet you stand there and nothing happens. The reactions at these imaginary lines are as imaginary as your imagination let’s you. What really lets you know you’re standing at these geographical wonders is a faded droopy weather-beaten signboard saying, ‘You are here. Welcome.’

It isn’t like this when we cross the door into the backhouse to the kitchen.

There was a definite shift: it’s hotter in the kitchen, in the literal and physical sense. I’ve been using this moisturiser for my face from Garnier skincare (damn you, influencer marketing). It’s a 48-hour day cream to hydrate and nourish your skin. Pretty good, actually. We get into the kitchen and I feel my brow plump with moisture. On Mburu’s nose as well (the photographer) I see little droplets collect on the tip of his nose. Chef Les is as dry on his face as he’s unmoved to the heat from the pressure – he’s in his element here.

The kitchen is also much noisier.

Beneath all the competing clangs and bangs and barking orders, is the hum of appliances. Refrigerators, ovens, microwaves, grills, gridle. Water spraying at the sink, knifes on chopping boards, spoons and forks clinking, ceramic bowls, dinner plates and side plates stacked on the dish rack for dispatch to the show kitchen counter. The soundtrack to this racket is someone’s phone – must be Vincent, the senior sous chef, boisterous chap who got jokes at his fingertips. The phone is sitting in a plastic water tumbler, playing some R&B.

The chefs are in their white uniforms, black Crocs on their feet, their heads covered in Ankara do-rags with matching aprons. They seem… what’s the word here? … patriotic.

Then there is the unmistakeable whiff of flavours. And fire, God there is a lot of fire. Fire has a sound, I hear it in Nyama Mama’s kitchen. The sound of fire is the colour of these flavours.

At 1.15 p.m., just as lunch service is kicking off, Mburu and I stand by these swinging door of the frenzy. Chef Les says in short fiery breaths, “Let me quickly brief you guys about how the kitchen works. So there’s me, the executive chef, my work is to make sure the food is of good quality and consistent, to house standards. I must taste all the food before it leaves the kitchen. I also expedite service, make sure everything is done with speed.

“Here –” Chef Les flings at us white protective head gear – “put these on. I have my two sous chefs, Kevin and Vincent. Kevin is out at the show kitchen on the grills and finishing, glazing, garnishing. That’s Vincent there.” Vincent smiles, he can’t hear us over the clang. Chef Les continues, “Then there’s the section heads, the chef de patier, also called the sauciers, today that’s Susan and Abel. Then we have the commes chef, for basic prepping. They come in early in the morning to prep the meats, veg….”

“How do you know how much to prep every morning?” I say.

“We know our projections for the day. So we know lunch on a day like today, Tuesday, not a busy day, we have 40 covers. Dinner is double.”

I nod. Chef Les nods back and raises his eyebrows, a signal to dive into eye of the storm.

And off we go, into what feels like a war zone. Normandy beach. UoN grounds on graduation day. Marikiti market at 5 a.m. Church at New Year’s kesha. High school admin office during form one registration. Uhuru Park at a Cord rally. Toddlers in a small trampoline.

Chef Les collects the orders from the show kitchen counter and pins them to the back, barks the orders for Chef Susan and Abel to roughly whip up at their ever-hot stations, then they pass the hot pans to Sous Chef Kevin at the show kitchen for finishing. Lastly, Chef Les plates the food with a razor-sharp precision, delicate mechanics, as if his hands have adopted a slow motion and the food on the plate will break apart if he doesn’t handle it so.

Everyone gets called by their first name, only Chef Les has the title of ‘Chef’. “Abel! Hizo pork chops zi come!”

“Yes, Chef!”

“Kevin, unikumbushe nyanya isiungue!”

“Sawa, Chef!”

“Susan, hiyo sauce ni sexy sana!”

“Asante, Chef!”

“Musalia, kuku haijaiva poa. Hebu ionje tena!”

“Yes, Chef!”

“Hostess? Hostess? Sema ni nini unataka.”

“Chef….client anasema –”

And on and on it goes for the hour and a half of lunch service.

Cheese slices are layered between burger breads. French fries and plantains dipped into the boiling oil in the frier. Marinated chicken breasts meet the hell-hot grill in a sizzle. Ugali is flattened and layered with toppings to make ugali pizza. Crispy fried onion rings are tossed in the gridle. Kuku wa kupaka is heated up with a coconut sauce that has an almost sinful profile of flavours. Vegetables lick the flames in a stir-fry. Sour cream is splattered into the pan to whip up the mash. Lettuce and tomatoes of the organic salad are drizzled with olive oil dressing.

In between prepping these dishes, there’s little room for broken telephone, hurt feelings, incomplete suggestions or pussyfooting on what will end up on a diner’s plate.

You say what you want, say it quickly, say it loudly and say it as it is. One misstep means the entire team fails together as chefs. A lone victory is unheard of in the kitchen – it’s ‘us’ and ‘we’, never ‘you’, never ‘me I’.

I must point something out. It’s a non-issue but I’ll say it anyway. There was only one female chef in the kitchen. Out of the more-than 10 chefs in the entire staff, only one was female on that shift. Out in the dining room is where the staff are primarily female; the hostess and waiting staff.

Later, we’re having staff lunch, I ask Chef Les about it. It was out of curiosity really, he said, “The kitchen is a tough place for a woman. The working hours are long, the pressure is high, it’s busy most of the time. I respect the women who work in the kitchen. And those who make it to become executive chefs are really good. When I was starting out, I was mentored by a really talented female chef.”

The storm of lunch service begins to ebb away a few minutes to 2. Chef Les says, pointing to the tables in the dining room, “Most of the tables have food.”

I add uselessly, “Even the orders coming in are fewer.”

Then at 2.07 p.m., the storm retreats and the waters calm.


I’ve shared some lousy pics on my IG from yesterday’s little adventure. Sneak a peek and follow us if you haven’t already.

Chef Les’s story goes up tomorrow, Inshallah. His is the first story in this miniseries titled ‘Kitchen Confidential’, about Kenyan chefs in Kenyan kitchens.

Colours of rhythm
Chef Les: “Food is better than an orgasm”

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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