Gatuiri tells us how she’s doing it all!

Good Morning! Today’s is a special post, an interview with a special friend. She too runs a foodie blog called Leo Tunapika? I discovered a while ago that she also moonlights as a baker! She’s not just making the good stuff for her family — she’s sharing the  icon-heart . In her own words below, enjoy!

On cooking…
I’ve always loved cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, but I never really knew this until I got married. The first thing I learned how to make is chapati. I was probably 12 years old. My mom is the one who taught me, she makes the best chapatis even when she isn’t trying to. I was so psyched about the chapatis, I even went to teach our neighbour’s children who were my friends. The trying out of new recipes, and the trial and error moments in the kitchen really excite me. The joy of tasting a meal and being wowed by the result is also a big plus. I get excited when my chicken recipes turn out to be successful. Yet as much as I find cooking exciting, there’s the matter of dirty dishes which sadly I can’t wish away. However, I have learnt to clean as I go, that way I avoid piling. The secret is as the food is cooking to wash the utensils used in the prep.

On cooking for family…
When I got married, I was pretty excited to be in charge of my own kitchen. I lived with my parents before getting married, so naturally I didn’t have much say on what was to be cooked. Funny thing is I can’t quite remember the first meal I prepared in my own kitchen! I do remember the first time I made chapatis for my husband I was over the moon, I even texted my mother☺. I was anxious about cooking them, and of course I wanted to impress my husband since he LOVES chapatis, so I had to bring it. Thankfully, they were a hit; he loved them and sang lovely praises. Even I surprised myself, they were pretty soft. I have my mother to thank for that. In the months leading up to the wedding, whenever we were to eat chapatis at home, she would make the dough and then get me to roll them. Safe to say, I had had a lot of practice. For sure she knew what she was up to, pendo la mama indeed (I had to squeeze that in!)

As much as I enjoy cooking and being in charge of my own kitchen, I have had to make some adjustments; unlike when I was at home and I could go a few days without cooking, I have now learnt to always have something on hand. I’ve realised that eating out isn’t the best option all the time and I’m learning to make quick meals for those work nights.

one pot pasta dinner — quick meal for week nights!
one pot pasta dinner — quick meal for week nights!

My husband is such a positive influence when it comes to my cooking and is always game for whatever, this has greatly helped in my experimenting and thus led to discovery of new recipes. The only thing I can term as a challenge is that he doesn’t like hot food, so I don’t use chillies in my cooking. I also discovered that cooking for family can be such a fun and simple adventure. As long as you know your family’s preferences you can work on making simple but tasty dishes. Also I have learnt that sprucing up everyday meals adds a nice touch and keeps things exciting. Like adding coconut milk to steamed rice or a touch of turmeric and voila colourful and flavourful rice.    

Kitchen adventures…
Some experiments turn out well while others are downright disasters. Recently I made veggie burgers from scratch, imagine? I used some butter beans to make the patties and even made the buns myself. The outcome was amazing, I was shocked.

veggie burgers — made with butter beans
veggie burgers — made with butter beans

The not so successful things (read disastrous) were some potato croquettes that I tried making with some leftover mashed potatoes, they were just not turning out as I had imagined. I was so bummed. Oh well, you win some you lose some. The mashed potatoes were too soft and were falling apart when I tried to shape them into balls for the croquettes. Despite the ups and downs in the kitchen I don’t think I have found something that I wouldn’t want to cook again. Granted it will take a while before I make the croquettes again but I’ll try. I have realised that I like making things from scratch. I wouldn’t mind knowing how to make homemade pasta for example.

Cooking styles and kitchen tools…
Over the years, I have learned to follow my gut when cooking and that a recipe is just a guide. I stay open to new ideas. I have come to appreciate the need for healthy meals. For example, if something requires deep frying I try to substitute that with baking or increasing the portion of veggies on my plate.

baked meatballs
baked meatballs

There is this sauté pan that I use quite a lot, it’s probably my favourite tool in my kitchen. Be it making chapatis, a chicken or fish curry, making pancakes, you name it I’ve probably made it in there. I love the pan because it has a wide surface area, perfect for chapatis and also great when making pancakes since I can make many at a go. Also works well when cooking whole fish fillets. We make chapatis a lot in the Leo tunapika? kitchen but we hardly ever use the round board for rolling them out. We always use the work surface. The board looks as good as new, it’s the least used tool in my kitchen.

The business is her kitchen…
I moonlight as an amateur baker. I started with home baking until not so long ago when I started doing it commercially. So far I have made cakes for three weddings and numerous birthday and shower cakes. I sort of stumbled into this baking business. I was OK with home baking and occasional cakes for my friends’ bridal showers. This changed when a couple approached me, requesting I make their wedding cake. At first I laughed it off, naturally but after a while I realised that I was up for the challenge so I said why not! It was no easy feat, I had to learn how to make fondant (the icing used on wedding cakes) and I had to acquire a few tools; more cake tins and cake stands. The transition has not been easy, I am self taught, so slip-ups have been there, however, I learn from them and move on. The revenue for the first wedding cake aided in the purchase of the cake stands which have come in handy for subsequent weddings. Comfort is something most of us enjoy and hence we hardly want to try something different and for obvious reasons like fear of failure.

birthday cake order
birthday cake order

However, through my short baking stint I have learnt quite a lot about myself and the satisfaction of seeing a happy client goes a long way in validating ones’ effort. Having fears of making that leap? I say start by offering to bake cakes for maybe a friend’s baby/wedding shower, a birthday cake for a loved one or even a just because cake. Let your circle of friends know and don’t under estimate the power of word of mouth. I have had a few referrals from people I didn’t know. Also social media is your friend, be it Instagram or Facebook, post pictures of your cakes. I have gotten a few orders via Instagram. Something that I am also starting to do is getting feedback from the clients and learning what I need to improve on. I had an incident not so long ago when a client wasn’t pleased with the outcome, thankfully they were honest with me and I got a chance to make it up to them. The idea is to keep an open mind and always be ready for all manner of reviews, whether good or bad, especially the not so good reviews, those are the ones that will help you grow and expand your skill set.

The joy…
Do I enjoy baking? By all means, yes! I have become more patient, especially when it comes to the decoration of the cakes. For sure practice does makes perfect. So I keep practising and I keep learning. I do not bake full time since I work part time and striking a balance can be a challenge. Finding time to try out new recipes is also challenging especially when I come home late from work and I need to make dinner before I can think of baking. I have had a few sleepless nights but all for a good cause. Thankfully I work part time and at least I get some few extra days to do my baking practice and even deliver orders. I do plan on going to school, especially to work on my decorating skills; in the mean time I rely on YouTube tutorials. I also have to mention that my husband has been very instrumental, staying up late with me, greasing the baking tins and all. He has really helped and of course giving the much needed encouragement.

Balance like a superhero…
Balancing it all is no walk in the park, and sadly when there’s too much going on, the blog normally takes the hit. Getting time to blog can be a challenge, I keep making resolutions of how often I should blog but I break them. However, I am learning to take it a step at a time. For when I am at work, I make the most of it to achieve as much as I can. I am also looking into making a blogging schedule and hopefully I’ll stick to it. I have turned down a few orders because of time constraints. It’s always good as a business person to learn to be honest with your clients, no need to bite more than you can chew. For the times I have wedding cake orders, I always ensure I have some “just because” cake for hubby to munch on, we don’t want him salivating over other people’s cakes ☺

It’s funny what passion can make you do, as I have mentioned, I have no training in baking or cooking. What I know I have learnt either from my mother, online recipes or just trial and error. I love what I do and that drives me to improve on what I did the previous day and I cannot forget; Practice! Practice! Practice! Cooking is something that comes naturally for me, however baking is a skill that I am still learning. When I began, I couldn’t ice cakes, I just used to bake, and slowly I started making the icing. Making the first wedding cake challenged me to learn how to make fondant. Thankfully in this business I have a few friends who have been instrumental in giving tips and advice. My friend Sarah even invited me over to her house and showed me how to make fondant. I can say I am definitely on a learning curve and every order offers an opportunity for growth.

baby bump cake order
baby bump cake order

Looking ahead, I would love to bake full time, it’s a dream we share with my small brother, another budding baker. We would definitely want to get into full time baking. If I could go back and change something in my cooking or baking history, hmm,… does discovering the talent sooner count? If I could back in time, I would definitely do a course that would aid my love for cooking and baking.

If you think you can’t cook, all you need is a change of attitude. As long as you believe you can’t cook it will be hard. However, a change of attitude goes a long way into making positive strides. Also, start simple, no need to try complicated recipes when you are trying to learn how to cook. Perhaps you love chicken, research on a simple chicken recipe and amaze yourself. Thankfully, there are several local food blogs with easy recipes and easy to find ingredients.

Funny in hindsight…
I have had a few kitchen accidents; however the most ‘tragic’ was when I dropped a cake as I was closing the gate on my way to deliver the cake. Imagine! The icing got all smudged, I gracefully picked up my cake and went back to the house and started on the icing all over again. The client, loved the cake ☺

Final thoughts…
I would like to thank you Aika, you inspired me to start my blog. Your advice and encouragement greatly aided my smooth entry into this world of blogging. Thank you!

Aaaaaw! Isn’t she sweet? Do visit her site and give her some love! She is also participating in the #SamsungBloggerChallenge this month so follow her on twitter and cheer her on (^_^)


About aika

Making, eating and sharing good food are a splendid way to start, brake and end a day! I post good eats on Life is a feast, eat up!

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