Inside Africa

Kenyan-owned restaurant serves Chinese cuisine to woo clients

When Hussein Virani and his brother Karim Hadi were laid off by an international airline in 2004 where they worked as flight attendants, they vowed they would not stand by and watch their world crumble.

They borrowed two tables and eight chairs and started preparing food from a makeshift kitchen using an equally crude locally-assembled stove to sell to customers.

“Both of us had a wife and two children eat and there was no way we were going to turn into beggars in order to feed our families,” Virani, who serves as the managing director, said on Saturday during the occasion to mark the 15th anniversary of Mister Wok Restaurant in Nairobi.

What began as a simple venture for the sole purpose of survival, has given rise to four eateries all located at upmarket addresses in Nairobi and a fifth one in Nanyuki situated on the slopes of Mt. Kenya.

Virani said that the outlet offers casual and fine dining Sichuan Cuisine which was drawn from his passion to serve healthy Chinese meals in Kenya.

“The idea was to introduce dishes from Asia that would be universally accepted by offering an alternative to the Swahili and Indian influence,” he said.

“Growing up in Nairobi, there were few choices then and there were limited places to go to for healthy meals for any celebration or get-together. The cuisine sits perfectly well in between formal dining and fast food with notable advantages of variety since it’s a shared meal, affordable and healthier unlike frozen fast food meats,” he remarked.

Virani said that at Mister Wok, which opened its doors on Valentine’s Day of 2004, every dish is prepared fresh to order, also known as scratch cooking where sauces are made fresh per order with meat and vegetables hand-cut fresh daily from the borrowed Chinese culinary practice.

Francis Makau, head chef joined the establishment at its inception from a purely Chinese restaurant in Nairobi and is the brains behind the Chinese delicacies.

“I joined Mister Wok when I was 30 years old and I have been able to educate my children and support my parents and my siblings from the work I do here,” Makau said.

Virani said the cafe buys produce from farms that do not use pesticides and meat from slaughter houses that are certified and which meet Halal standards in order to cater for clients who belong to Islamic faith. Enditem

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