As an increasing number of international high-end hotel chains have set up shop in Rwanda over the past decade, what was until recently notably absent was an authentic Rwandan competitor in this market.
That changed about a year ago when Ubumwe Grande Hotel opened its doors, with a mission to incorporate Rwandan hospitality – the warm welcome anyone will experience when visiting a Rwandan family – into a 4-star hotel. That starts with the food you put on the table, and it is no surprise that Ubumwe is probably the only big hotel in the country which has a Rwandan as its executive chef.
And Paul Kamugisha certainly deserves that title, with degrees in hospitality and gastronomy from Nairobi and Singapore under his belt, and 13 years of experience in world-class hotels. Over the years, he climbed the corporate and haute cuisine ladder, from sous-chef over executive sous-chef to executive chef and someone who has recruited and trained kitchen staff for high-end hotels as well as acting as a content expert for curriculum development concerning hospitality. He has been in charge of kitchens that had to serve over a thousand people participating in international conferences, often including Heads of State ( such as the World Economic Forum, the Transform Africa Summit, the Interpol General Assembly, and the AU Summit).
Now he is on a mission to turn Rwandan and African dishes into culinary delicacies at Ubumwe Grande Hotel. These include roast goat meat (inyotse), the inevitable brochette, sweet and green plantains, and traditional Rwandan chicken stew with green plantain. Dishes from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are also on the menu.
“When you plan a menu, you look at who you are targeting,” Kamugisha explains. “70% of our customers are African, and even the Europeans who come here want to eat African food.”
At the hotel’s main restaurant, Fiesta, they serve an international breakfast, while for lunch one can choose between African and international cuisine, and dinner includes a table d’hôte Mexican menu. The Rooftop Rendez-Vous bar and grill offers an à-la-carte menu that includes African food (from the salads to the main course), international cuisine, an Indian corner and the Italian pasta club.
For personal or institutional banquets too, Ubumwe Grande offers a range of choices: African, Rwandan, International, Indian or barbecue. All of this is of the highest quality and standards, assures chef Kamugisha.
“We are a 4-star hotel but we offer 5-star service and food,” he says.
The hotel is also planning to introduce theme nights. Already, on Saturday at lunch time they have a Mediterranean theme where they serve dishes from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, and they also consider having a special African night.
There is a snag, however, in Ubumwe Grande Hotel’s quest to promote local cuisine, as Kamugisha points out.
“We have to import some of our ingredients, especially fine fruit and exotic food like grapes, apples or Roman lettuce,” he explains. “So I want to encourage local farmers to step up their game and grow these crops.”
Read this article and more in issue n° 78 of Hope Magazine.