His name is Bond. John Bond Macharia. He is a young pastry chef working at Le Grenier à Pain, a French bakery and restaurant on Riverside Drive. His passion for food-making has seen him work at several high-end hotels and restaurants including the Tribe Hotel. He recently landed a three-month dream internship with Swedish Michelin 2-star restaurant Fäviken Magasinet. How big of a deal such an opportunity is to a budding chef cannot be overstated. It’s akin to a young football player getting a trial with Barcelona FC or Manchester United.
KenyaBuzz caught up with an excited Chef Bond a few days before his flight out to Sweden for his internship which is set to begin this December. He tells us more about his culinary journey, what he expects from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and his future prospects.
KenyaBuzz: Who is John Bond Macharia?
John Bond: I’m a 21-year-old pastry chef and chocolatier. I’ve always been passionate about food and viewed cooking as an art form. Using food as a medium expressing myself through creating it. I love it when people get to enjoy my creations and brings joy to them, sharing that piece of myself with others is what really drives me.
KenyaBuzz: What inspired you to get into the art of making food?
John Bond: From an early age, I always knew I wanted to get into making food because my mum has always been doing lots of cooking and catering. I always helped out and that’s an environment I’ve always felt comfortable in. After high school, I decided to take a gap year and work in the industry and see if it’s actually what I wanted to do. I started off by working at the Tribe Hotel as an intern. I worked there for 6 months and then they hired me as a commis chef. I worked there for another 6 months and moved to the pastry department and I kinda stuck with it. After Tribe, I moved to Casual Bites in Westlands and I worked in their bakery for 6 months. I then went on to Switzerland to train professionally and I did a course in chocolate and pastry arts for a year.
KenyaBuzz: Why pastry making?
John Bond: I always felt like it was a bit of a challenge and that’s mostly what drew me. I appreciated that everything had to be balanced and you can’t just wing it the way you want it. Once you learn how to balance everything it opens up so much on what you can do with a product.
KenyaBuzz: Tell us about your work as a chocolatier?
John Bond: It’s basically learning how to work with chocolate, how to tamper it and learning certain elements of chocolate and how to manipulate . In Kenya, it really hasn’t picked up as compared to places like Europe and recently South Africa.
KenyaBuzz: Your favourite dessert?
John Bond: I don’t have a specific favourite one but for chocolate, it has to be dark chocolate.
KenyaBuzz: How do you think your work at Le Grenier à Pain helped shape your culinary skills?
John Bond: It’s been a great opportunity working there. It has helped me in the sense of self-growth working with an amazing team. I’ve also learned how to handle more responsibilities as well as learning how to collaborate with others. I’ve also learned how to integrate French cuisine into Kenya by using local products. I’ve been there for a year now.
KenyaBuzz: Are you excited about working at Fäviken?
John Bond: I’m extremely excited. It’s a new chapter for me and I also get to explore other areas I haven’t really been able to pursue. It’s a great training program. I’m just nervous in terms of doing a good job and making a good impression. I want to show that Kenyans too can deliver at such a high-end level.
KenyaBuzz: How did you land the internship?
John Bond: I sent out a lot of applications to Michelin-starred restaurants for apprenticeship. They have a very long waiting list and you have to have a pretty good CV as well. Eventually, Fäviken came back to me after a while and they asked me to join their team in December to March. They explained to me their program and all necessities and that’s how it happened.
KenyaBuzz: Do you have an all-time favourite chef?
John Bond: I don’t have a favourite chef because I’ve learned something from all the ones I’ve worked with. There are some who inspire me like Magnus Nilsson and Dominique Crenn. Magnes has such a sustainable way of cooking by using only local produce, integrating traditional methods of preservation and innovative techniques. Dominique puts so much emotion into her food telling a story. Be it about reminiscing her childhood or anything going on in her life at the moment. One can clearly see how much thought goes into everything.
KenyaBuzz: What was it like serving the High Tea at the Swedish Embassy?
John Bond: It was a great opportunity and I met a lot of people like the Swedish Ambassador to Kenya and her deputy, celebrity publicist Anyiko Owoko and lot of other influential people. It was great to share my ‘work’ with them and get their feedback. I also got hear of projects they themselves have been working on.
KenyaBuzz: Would you say cooking is a talent or skill?
John Bond: It’s a skill that you can learn but to make it a career you either have it or you don’t in terms of creativity, delivering to guests and coping in a high-pressure environment. Cooking for me is basically my life and my career and it’s definitely something I want to stick with.
KenyaBuzz: Do you have a ‘Chef Bond’ speciality?
John Bond: Yes, a chai pastry créme puff with a vanilla Chantilly. I came up with that dessert because I was inspired by my childhood afternoon teas that mum made for when we got home after school, and so I infusing components like black tea and masala spices into it.
KenyaBuzz: What other hobbies do you have, besides cooking?
John Bond: I like long-distance running, drawing, I also used to play the violin but I had to stop because I didn’t have enough time anymore. Music has always been something that draws me in as well. In another, I’d probably be a zoologist because of my love for animals. I also listen to music while I’m cooking and luckily at Le Grenier, we’re allowed to listen to music in the kitchen. I also enjoyed watching Kingsman Golden Circle and Game of Thrones is my go to series. I also love Chef’s Table on Netflix. I also liked Mind Hunters and Big Bang Theory.
KenyaBuzz: What would be your advice to young people looking to get into the industry?
John Bond: Be determined. Perseverance is also key and always have a goal set in mind. The challenge in life is that things will take time so be patient.
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