Beating The Heat in the Kitchen
When the Levernes were looking for a chef to work at their new lodge in Bale Mountain National Park, their foodie friend in Addis Ababa Guy Fenton knew just the man for the job.
Solomon Getachew had trained at some of the larger hotels in Addis Ababa, including The Hilton, and then worked for a mining company in the dreaded Danakil region. It is not so much the heat in the kitchen that will get you, as the heat in the Depression: the Danakil Depression is one of the hottest places on Earth.
From there Solomon joined a catering company back in Addis run by former Gordon Ramsay trained chef, Guy Fenton. The nature of the work, however, was sporadic doing parties and embassy functions, so when Guy Fenton (so as not to be confused with Guy Leverne) heard there was a permanent job on offer he recommended Solomon.
“After working in Danakil, Bale did not seem so remote,” chuckles Guy Leverne. Apparently the idea of working there does not appeal to all, or apparently any other, urban-trained chef in the country. Trying to track down a relief chef for Solomon over the Christmas period was proving problematic for Guy (Leverne) on the day we arrived there.
Because of the connection, some guests assume they will be treated to haute cuisine a L’Ecosse, which is not the case. Guy (Fenton) helped set up the kitchen and design the menus for the lodge, but by the time you get there the Ramsay connection is three degrees of separation distant. What you will get at Bale is a lot of fresh local produce, including salads, vegetables and fruit.
The historical political and cultural isolation of the country has led to it developing entirely its own cuisine. The staple is injera, a spongy bread-type of food made from fermented teff (a cereal with a small black seed). You use it to mop up the spicy lentil, chickpea and vegetable sauces, as well as tibs, or roasted meat.
Every so often Solomon will produce a traditional injera bayoyanet, or platter. But for the most part it is more Ethiopian-Western fusion food (a style I just created). The desserts, though, are entirely Western and decadent and we’re sure Mr Ramsay would approve.