TEXT CHARLOTTE BEAUVOISIN PHOTOS TWENY BENJY
A TASTE OF BELGIUM Yummy writer Charlotte Beauvoisin is taken on a whirlwind tour of Belgian fusion cuisine at the strikingly restyled Le Chateau Brasserie Belge on Quality Hill, Ggaba Road. It is a bright tuesday afternoon and I’m thrilled to find myself seated in the airy dining area of Le Chateau Brasserie Belge. With innovative fusion menus and new specialities and events, masterminded by the new Executive Chef Paul Francis Leysen, it is refreshing to see how after twenty two years in business, this stalwart of the Kampala dining scene is back in the spotlight where it deserves to be. Under the thatched roof of the main dining area, I glance up to see daylight filtering through the skylight window and take a minute to appreciate the extensive refurbishment and clever remodelling of the restaurant’s interior, gardens and patisserie. Chef Paul’s passion for everything food is obvious as he comes bounding out of the kitchen for our interview. We immediately get chatting and he excitedly tells me
about developments at Le Chateau Brasserie Belge. A good ten minutes pass before we remember we have yet to introduce ourselves. “At Le Chateau Brasserie Belge, we use Ugandan products in a Belgian way,” he tells me. “Smoked Nile Perch with mango and passionfruit is a popular fusion dish. A fusion menu for a Japanese Belgian function, for example, will feature Japanese dumplings with Belgian endives and pheasant and cognac sauce.” Eager to take me through the menu, Chef Paul points out Le Chateau’s Belgian delicacies like Uganda’s first organic dry-aged beef, which is so much more tender and flavoursome than the beef that local butchers sell. Chef Paul also highlights two of the restaurant’s house specialities: the potted pork ‘rillettes’ and "the best Bearnaise sauce in town”. Another
item he insists cannot be overlooked, as it is the “best in East Africa”, is the restaurant’s steak tartare. Chef Paul traces his passion for food back to his earliest days. “When I was a child, every Sunday my grandma cooked for over 30 family members. The occasion started at noon with an aperitif and carried on until 8 o’clock in the evening. My dad loved taking us to restaurants and I knew by the age of eight that I wanted to be a chef.” By the age of 12, Chef Paul started hotel and catering school in Leuven in Belgium. By the age of 17, he was catering for three dinner parties every weekend. “I used to be an amateur opera singer too, but I’m too slim to be Pavarotti!” Grins Chef Paul. I’m keen to hear Chef Paul’s advice to young people considering a career as a chef. “Go to school and get the basics right and work while you are studying,” he says earnestly. “You can teach yourself how to cook but having the right techniques will save you time. I’ve learned my best tricks from experienced restaurant staff, not teachers.” On the last weekend of every month, Le Chateau hosts a ‘Bottomless Brunch’ (based on the idea of the Belgian ‘Bottomless Barrel’). From noon until four, guests can enjoy a fabulous Belgian lunch buffet and unlimited sparkling wine. For this special occasion, Chef Paul has introduced a new concept for Uganda, the ‘Pig in a box.’ Here,
a suckling pig is cooked in an aluminium-lined wooden box by a barbecue fire that sits on the steel lid of the box. This slow cooking process originates from China and produces a crispy skin. “It’s similar to the Hawaiian way of cooking, in which the meat is wrapped in banana leaves, buried in the sand and cooked from above by a fire” Chef Paul explains. During May and June this year, the restaurant will host special events such as a fish and seafood evening. The popular ‘Moules et frites’ (mussels and fries) night resumes in September and will be held on the second Thursday of every month until April. “On the last occasion, one guest travelled all the way from South Sudan to arrive just in time to get the last portion. She didn’t kiss me, but it was close!” Chef Paul laughed. It’s been an intense few months for Chef Paul who arrived in Kampala just four months ago to manage Le Chateau Brasserie Belge, the patisserie and bakery and La Patisserie in Acacia Mall which serves thirty two different types of gelato. With all this going on, does Chef Paul doesn’t have much time to relax. “I’ve had one day off since I arrived in Uganda but my idea of relaxation is dancing the samba at carnivals in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro!” He says. However, with such passion for food, it’s hard to imagine this Executive Chef away from the kitchen for very long.