A Kenya adventure; a story of avocados, great food and wonderful people

Taste of a Traveller series 3 is underway, with New Zealand Masterchef winner Brett McGregor setting off around the world, discovering how to make traditional dishes from local chefs.

As part of this new season, Brett travelled to Kenya, filming 2 new episodes which will broadcast later this year. Pip Llewelyn, Business Development Manager here at Olivado, was lucky enough to join Brett and his crew, spending a week in this incredible country, discovering its sights, sounds and tastes.

Discover Pip’s adventure, in her own words, with excerpts from her blog...

The adventure begins!

Saturday 4 February 2017

With much excitement, Brett McGregor, Marcus Raffills (thereafter referred to as Abe by his own request) and myself, jumped on a flight with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, then another onto Johannesburg then finally to Nairobi. A long 32 hours later on the Sunday night at 10pm local time we were picked up at the airport by Valerie and Isaac from the Olivado Kenya office and factory

Brett McGregor

Monday 6th February

By 6am we were on another plane to Mombasa flying past the beautiful Kilimanjaro Mountains bound for the Tamarind Hotel on the Indian Ocean.

After a meeting with the senior members of the hotel chain and a hotel tour (to see where in the hotel we could film), it was on with the day.

We spent the morning walking around Old Mombasa town, the Muslim part of Mombasa. Narrow windy, dusty streets, with locals swimming and washing in the ocean.

Our crew consisted of Brett, Abe and myself, plus T “the Fixer” from the Nairobi production company we hired (who made sure we had all the permits for filming). Add his driver and we soon became a crew of about 15, as curious locals joined us for the walk around the old town.

Kenyan Carpenter

On our way we stopped to talk to a man undertaking handmade carpentry on the street.  Next a man on what looked like a stationary bike, but he was actually sharpening knives, which Brett found very interesting.

Kenyan knife sharpener

With so much to see as the day heated up to 39 degrees, we headed on a short drive to the ocean, where many local vendors parked their tuk-tuks and sold their wares. This is where we tasted the best freshly made potato and cassava chips ever!

Take 2 boiling pots of oil on the road side and add 1 guy peeling the vegetables fresh on the spot before throwing them in oil. Lastly sprinkled with chilli powder and salt. They tasted delicious!

Nairobi street food

Traditional Swahili Village life

That afternoon we took a 3 hour drive to a Swahili village, where Brett was due to learn how to make mahamri- traditional Swahili doughnuts.  

The traffic was terrible, there was no air conditioner in the van and it was a long drive. However, when we got there it was like stepping 100 years back in time! Little mud huts with dirt floors and the rusty coloured dirt ground - so typical all over Kenya.

Swahili hut

The village was very basic, with no electricity and the drinkable water coming from a local well. Each hut is one room, the kitchen another hut, the bedroom/living room a separate hut again, and finally a tiny room with a hole for the bathroom! 

What sticks most in my mind though is the beaming smiling faces of the children who came out to meet us. 

Brett was taught how to make the mahamri on a table outside with a gas fire and a few buckets. Mahamri is a staple everyday breakfast food in Kenya. To us it is reminiscent of a pita bread, rather than the loaf we might buy.

Brett making mahamri

Once Brett had mastered this local favourite, it was time for the long drive home in the dark.

All aboard for some knife skills!

Tuesday 7th February

This morning saw us out on the streets of Mombasa again, trying out all modes of transport - tuk tuk, bikes, and the van – all to find ingredients needed for this afternoon’s cooking.

In the afternoon we were invited onto the Tamarind Dhow, a boat belonging to the Tamarind hotel where we were staying.  Resident Chef Mike is a big burly happy man with awesome knife skills, and he was happy to teach Brett how to make a Swahili crayfish curry.

Chefs with Olivado oils

In return we educated Mike on our tasty Olivado Extra Virgin Coconut oil which was used in the curry recipe, and how and why to use Olivado Extra Virgin Avocado oil. A simple recipe resulted in an amazing dish using Crayfish, fresh tomatoes, garlic, turmeric, chilli, garam masala, coriander and ginger.

Cray Fish Curry

And delicious it was too! 

The early bird catches the octopus

Wednesday 8th February

Sunrise in Kenya

Another early start, with everyone up at 5.30am as the sun rises, to catch an octopus to cook on the beach.

Local fishermen showed us the spot to find some, and a few of us went for a dive. The water was clear and very warm and lots of pretty fish were seen. My favourites were the bright red starfish!

Red starfish

Once we had caught our lunch, it was back to the beach to kill the octopus Kenyan style. A ferocious style whereby the octopus is thrown at the ground to kill it and tenderise it. Not for the faint-hearted.

Octopus killing

The local chef then showed Brett how he lit a fire and used palm sticks to make a makeshift grill to cook on.

Grilled octopus

Brett whipped up a marinade using Olivado Avocado Oil infused with Lime and we stood dripping with sweat in 40 degree midday sun watching it cook. As the tide started to come in around us, we realised we only had a tiny spot of sand left, and had to depart before waist deep water engulfed us!

Olivado Avocado oil with Lime

All too soon we were off. Back to the hotel to check out, and then straight to the airport that night for our flight back to Nairobi.

Crocodile burger anyone?

Thursday 9th February

We had a little lie in and were picked up by the Olivado truck at 7am for the drive to the famous Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi, renowned for its large selection of meats on offer, all of which are cooked over a huge open fire pit.

Exotic meat menu

Exotic meats on the menu included Crocodile, Ox ball, Ostrich meatballs and Roast rabbit. We had lunch and tried some of the meats on offer - not me though as I do not eat meat!

We were given a backstage pass and Brett was shown how to cook some of these exotic meats; all of this filmed for the show of course.

Fun was had after the cooking as Valerie arranged for us to “borrow” a motorbike from someone in the restaurant for Brett to ride up to the Muranga District as per the “Taste of a traveller” storyline. Of course he only rode it within 10 minutes of the restaurant! Abe hung out the back of the truck to film Brett as we drove along behind him. Surprisingly, we all lived to tell the tale!

Meeting Betty and Daisy

It wouldn’t be Africa without meeting some exotic wildlife, and on the way north we stopped in at the Giraffe Sanctuary to meet and feed the adorable giraffes Betty and Daisy. It was such a special experience to be up close and personal with these majestic animals. They had the longest blue tongues I have ever seen!

Giraffe

Onwards for the 2 hour drive north to the Golden Palms motel, where all the Olivado staff stay while visiting the Olivado factory in Kenya.

The Olivado Factory

Friday 10th February

A drive out to the factory in the truck at 7am to see first-hand the Olivado Organic Extra Virgin Avocado Oil being made.

Avocado factory

Then Mary, the Olivado in-house resident cook, teaches Brett how to make chapattis and lentils her own special way. Mary cooks lunch every day for all the staff at Olivado. A hot lunch with a choice of salads - so impressive. The fresh herbs she uses are all grown on site in the Olivado garden out the front of the factory and looked after by her.

Mary teaches Brett

The team at Olivado Kenya welcomed us, special thanks to Oscar (Operations Manager) and Valerie (Business Development Manager) seen here with me who did an awesome job showing us around and looking after us.

Valerie, Pip and Oscar

The universal game

Brett and Kimani

Late afternoon we had to jump back in the truck to shoot in the nearby town of Kenol. Brett was invited to join the Kenol football team - proudly sponsored by Olivado! That’s right, we have a football team here in Kenya, with a lot of the players working for Olivado.

The coach, Kimani, is our Fruits Manager in Kenya – a special job working with the farmers to help yield the most avocado fruit for us.

Football pitch

Playing on a dry and very dusty pitch, Brett was exhausted by the younger, fitter players (Sorry Brett!). The junior football team appeared to watch the game and Brett had kindly brought over some clothes for these boys. Their excitement at a new t-shirt was infectious and caused quite the stampede!

Local kids

The boys were given the Chapatti’s and lentils Mary and Brett had cooked earlier in the day. One wee lad grabbed a handful and ran away before anyone could take it off him! 

After I had a drive of the truck around town - no mean feat with goats, kids, people, dirt all on the road with me – we headed back for dinner at Golden Palms.

The boss is coming – look busy!

Saturday 11th February

Gary Hannam, the Olivado CEO, flew in from Switzerland late on the Friday night to be on set cooking with Brett today.

Pip and Agnes

Before that happened though Gary took us to see the Avocado farms and to meet Agnes, one of our fair trade organic farmers, on her farm. 

Most of Olivado’s 1700 farmers are women - I couldn’t work out exactly what the men did! Agnes proudly showed us her farm of about 20 trees, and introduced us to one of the avocado tree-pickers, who showed us the best way to get the fruit off the tree. 

Avocado farm

Agnes kindly invited us in for a cup of tea which was a wonderful chance to have a chat and learn about her life. Sadly her husband had recently passed away, leaving her to farm on her own and do all the household chores as well. Quite an effort with none of the Western world’s appliances to help. Again no electricity or floor in her house. 

Gary, Brett and Agnes

The Olivado Story

The afternoon was spent at the factory where Gary explained to Brett all about how we ended up in Kenya. Back in 2000 it became obvious to us that there were not enough avocadoes in NZ to produce enough oil to meet the worldwide demand.

Gary searched the world for options and it turned out Kenya had abundant fruit. While they talked, Gary made the “Olivado avocado salad” and Brett whipped up a chicken dish for Gary.

Brett and Gary

Afterwards we all drove the 40 minutes back to the Golden Palms as the sun set over Kenya.

Meeting the locals at church

Sunday 12th February

Another early start this morning as we were kindly invited to go to Bridget’s Mum’s church to meet the locals.

Bridget's mum

What a wonderful experience that was!

The colourful outfits and the singing was so uplifting and beautiful to listen too. Then it was onwards for the walk up the hill to Bridget’s farm to learn how to cook a goat curry. 

Church in Kenya

Bridget’s friends had been preparing our lunch while we were in church, and we were invited to stay and eat with everyone after filming was over for Taste of a Traveller. A wonderful day was spent in the Muranga district meeting lots of very welcoming people. Again, my heart was taken by Gin’s daughter Michelle. An absolute sweetie!

Michelle and Pip

A quick safari before heading home

Monday 13th February

Our last day in Kenya was without a doubt one of those days one will remember forever as a most amazing experience.

We were up at 4.30am so we could be at the Nairobi National park by the opening time to avoid all the crowds of Safari trucks.

We were off to find a lion! And we found 2!

We were only in the park 5 minutes when a male lion walked up behind the Olivado truck and right past us before disappearing into the bushes off the road. Amazing!

Lion on safari

Situated on the outskirts of Nairobi city, the park is about 120 square miles, and we ended up driving around for about 6 hours. We were lucky enough to see so much wildlife in this time I cannot put all my pictures up however here is one of a lioness.

Lioness on safari

After this it was straight to the airport for the 30 hours of flying home to New Zealand. Kimani dropped Brett, Abe and myself off at the airport, and we all said our sorry goodbyes.

What a lucky girl I was to visit Kenya and learn first-hand about what Olivado does here. I must say though, what I will never forget is the warmth of the people of Kenya. You won my heart.

Goodbyes at the airport