Harold Sena-Akoto, the Ghanaian-born chef of 45 Degrees Kitchen, learned an inspirational lesson from an Italian mentor years ago. “You know Italians,” Mr. Sena-Akoto said with a chuckle. “They are so passionate. My chef said to me: ‘Consider yourself blessed that people come to you for a meal. So imagine that every meal you cook is going to be their last.’”
Mr. Sena-Akoto seems to take that to heart with his philosophy of providing “good, healthy, nourishing food” in an environment that is “warm, rustic, welcoming and natural.”
In Kenya, that isn’t always easy. Forty-Five Degrees Kitchen, which opened in late 2015, prides itself on sourcing locally — very locally. Mr. Sena-Akoto gets his chickens from a woman down the road, lamb from a farm in Naivasha and carrots, beets, cucumbers, arugula and bok choy from a garden behind his parking lot. He calls fishermen on Kenya’s coast who catch what he needs, pack it on ice and send it to Nairobi on an overnight bus.
“It’s a crazy operation,” said Rose Wahome, his wife and co-owner of the restaurant. “Sometimes they tell us, ‘Oh, the moon was out and the fish could see us and they were hiding.’ So no fish. And guess what? We have customers coming.”
Nairobi has a handful of fine-dining restaurants, many buried deep within fancy hotels. But 45 Degrees Kitchen (named after the angle at which many chefs sharpen their knives) sits on a tree-lined street on the grounds of an old chicken farm. Because Nairobi has a dreamy climate, most of the 70 seats are outside.
On a recent night, my wife and I sat down under the stars for the standard four-course meal, starting with a very fresh arugula and beet salad. Next came spinach ravioli, building up to the Tuscan lamb — one of the best pieces of meat I have eaten in Kenya. For dessert, Mr. Sena-Akoto presented a sampler of flourless chocolate cake, tiramisù and mango parfait.
Compact, exuberant and chatty, Mr. Sena-Akoto explained that he tries to hire locally, too.
“Many of my waiters have never been waited on,” he said. So he takes his team of young Kenyans to other restaurants to sit down and learn how to enjoy a good meal. It seemed to work. The service for our dinner was meticulous without being overbearing, and 45 Degrees Kitchen is now one of my favorite restaurants in this part of the world.