Msafiri chats to the award-winning chef of the year
I bet Doxis Bekris would charm the pants off Donald Trump. This Group Executive Chef at the Fairmont Group of Hotels is just so darn personable! I am looking at the top of his long hair (because I am a giant in my high shoes, but also because he is relatively short), which is loosely tied into a ponytail as he leads me through the Pango Kitchen where a few minutes earlier there had been quite the frantic cook-off for the chef of the year 2015 award.
A cook-off so intense it was like something out of a Top Chef episode, only the air wasn’t punctuated by the smell of steak on the grill and Gordon Ramsay shouting expletives. We initially chat about everything from the competition to his love for the gym and water sports like kite-surfing, which take him down to the coast quite a bit.
Originally from a beautiful island called Paros (with its abundance of fresh fish and seafood) in southern Greece, Doxis reveals that, as with most chefs, his passion developed from his mother’s love for cooking and his consequential love for food. It is this passion that has for the past 15-20 years seen him work all over the world in places like Dubai, New York, Italy, Japan, Zambia, Zurich and now Kenya where’s he’s currently been for a year. A lot of influences from his travels translate to his dishes.
“When I cook, I draw from the traditions of where I’m based at the moment and like to use local ingredients so it resonates with the people but has this modern twist,” says Doxis. “In Kenya the quality of meat and vegetables is very good. In fact, when I went back to Greece I noticed that in the market all the green beans and great avocados were from here. You have such treasures in Kenya!”
“At the Norfolk, for instance, you will find a lot of Kenyan stuff on the menu, only with a different approach,” he says.
When he cooks away from work, however, Doxis keeps clear of the food you would typically find at five star hotels. In fact his favourite item from Kenyan cuisine is the mutura sausage. He also likes nyama choma, but would rather skip ugali.
“Why? Because it is dry?”
“It’s very dry!”
“But if you have it with some nice stew then it should be fine…”
“Yes, but I don’t cook stews very much. I prefer grilled and barbecued dishes.”
Chef Doxis reveals that he is 39. He could pass for ten years younger, and perhaps the only giveaway is the touch of grey on his goatee.
Someone pops in to inform the chef that he is urgently needed by the judges. We have only been talking for five minutes, and I cannot let him leave without asking about his sleeve tattoos. I bet he’s tired of responding to that question in interviews.
“Every single one has a story!” he responds enthusiastically. “I get one from wherever I go. I’m exploring Kenyan tribes to see if they have something special so I can get the pattern and make it into a tattoo.”
Are they just on his arms? I wonder out loud. Doxis rips off his shirt (no, not Hulk Hogan style) and I spot some on his chest. He says he has quite a few around his body. And then it is time for him to dash to the kitchen and for me to pin down another chef for an interview.