LIFE AND TIMES OF CHEF BRIAN C PRINZ
“I have always been in love with the hospitality industry; and it all started with a TV Series by Arthur Hailey’s in the 80’s titled ‘Hotel’”
Chef Brian C Prinz
Growing up, I have vivid memories of travelling a lot as a family, taking trips back home to South Africa since we didn’t have relatives living in Namibia where we were based. We travelled all over South Africa, making pitstops whereever inspiration would lead us, but one place that truly captured my heart was the little landlocked nation of eSwatini, still referred by most by its former name of Swaziland.
Bordered by South Africa and Mozambique, it was the landscape and its people that I found to be quite compelling. To this day, when I think of eSwatini, my mind journeys me to moments of picking fruit that was growing on the roadside, being able to pluck your own brunch of bananas and going camping. What was there not to love?
My childhood inspiration
My father was a Minister of the Methodist Church, and my mother a devoted, well-respected woman also serving in the Church. Side by side they spread the gospel, travelling extensively on ministry related assignments with their 5 sons and 1 daughter in tow. And so my mother taught us all the domesticities of life at an early age, including cooking, doing the laundry, ironing and cleaning. She wanted us to be independent, and so perhaps in some way, our childhood experiences fuelled my desire to pursue a career within the hospitality industry.
My father, being the preciding Bishop and the Secretary General of the Council of Churches back then; pioneered a renowned feeding scheme in Namibia, which not only left me in awe of the impact he was making, but also inspired me to view giving without receiving as a real life-changing opportunity.
Pursuing a career in the service industry
I embarked on my culinary studies and hotel mamagement training in 1994, carrying on until 1998 through an in-service block release program.
It was part of the national Affirmative Action requirements for institutions to provide training and support for people coming out of disadvantaged communitues, grooming them for success in leadership roles for any business.
I started out at the Kalahari Sands Hotel before becoming a private chef, which further allowed me to work in different places across Namibia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and China.
I enjoyed the wonderful privilege of cooking for the Sheikh of Ajman Emirate in the UAE and the King of eSwatini, Head of States and global business icons, but even with this honour, cooking for my parents always holds a special place in my heart as they have tasted my culinary creations since the very beginning.
Inspired by traditional meal preparation
With every pursuit comes inspiration, and for me, my biggest inspiration still is and will probably always be Madam Chef Dorah Sithole - the Queen of African cuisine. From the time she was featured in Drum Magazine and then went on to become the Editor of True Love Magazine, I remember her cooking samp and beans to making a doughboy, and her preparation of tripe in such a way that it was a dish fit for royalty.
Though looked upon by many as “food for the peasants” – for me, seeing her dishes took me back to my childhood, when my mother used to prepare similar dishes for our family. There is so much culture attached to traditional dishes and so in some way, that has always been my creative driving force, as I too want to prepare and promote the local Namibian traditional dishes from the Ovaherero, Oshiwambo, the Basters and Nama tribes in the South of Namibia.
I love taking African dishes to the next level; incorporating different methods of preparation and presentations while infusing flavors mostly found in European cuisines. Keeping up with current trends within the industry and also encompossing the cultural trends regarding textures; and being on the cutting edge of modern day society, one has to be well informed of the demands of the current customer base as many guests has evolved from the way they used to experience traditional meals.
Today’s food lovers are well exposed to different types of food from different cultures and so as a chef, it’s important to keep up with the trends in the culinary landscape.
Growing through industry challenges
Within the industry as chefs, we face many challenges as much as our entire journey is an adventure. We are to take our guests on culinary experiences that take them from the norm into the unknown. Having a following normally makes things easier, but then again I’ve come to realise that your location also makes the world of difference.
Working in the bush at the prestigious Mokuti Etosha Lodge has given me the opportunity to give guests a different way of looking at lodges; as it’s not just about booking a bed to lay your head on while on a break, but an entire experience that includes enjoying a unique presentation of sundowners, fine dining in the bush next to the waterholes where wild animals come to quench their thirst from the hot blazing Namibian sun; to also carrying out farm drives with wine tastings at the old farm house.
This offers an educational experience, also allowing guests to appreciate a true Namibian cultural experience in the Boma restaurant, where we pay homage to the diversity of Namibian cultures by interacting with our local Heikum San bushmen tribe communities, who are the historical descendents of the Etosha National Park.
Chef Brian Prinz on looking ahead
I believe the future for us in the industry looks brighter then ever before despite our having been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. We anticipate more international and local guests looking to experience what Africa has to offer given how long we have been collectively held back from doing so through the lockdowns across the world. As a chef and industry professional, I remain hopeful that we will soon be able to reintroduce the real Africa to the world; from our cultures to our food, into our homes and our hearts. Diamonds are no longer found in just mines; but within the people we work with who are our best kept secrets and help us preserve our heritage.
I believe an advanced exploration of African food will be the new, next best thing as part of our local and regional culinary landscape. Being a chef has taken me to so many places, allowing me to meet people from all walks of life, while also getting involved in feeding childen in orphanages and the vulnerable members of our communities through charitable initiatives.
Taking my team members to the next level in our field is definitely one of my passions. It is what I love doing. I do believe my purpose in life is to provide opportunities for others, from training team members from being stewards to becoming hot line chefs, and teaching them how to curate a la carte menus and top of the line buffets. The aspirations of so many youths wanting to become a part of our industry is incredibly heart warming, and a reminder that our food culture will live into the unknown future; for many to learn and appreciate. As we say in South Africa, “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu” which is loosely translated to mean a person is a person through other people.