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Food and Travel: ‘Rolling stone’ Ryan rolls on!

I SEEM to bump into Terry Ryan, probably Zimbabwe’s main man meriting the mantle “celebratory chef”, as he’s moving on to pastures new, facing fresh challenges in hospitality.

When he cooked a world-class gourmet lunch at Glen Lorne’s eyrie-like boutique hotel, Imba Matombo –– this time last year –– he couldn’t  join us as he was making 11th hour plans to move on to a year-long contract getting breathtaking Bumi Hills Safari Lodge refurbished and open for Africa Albida Tourism (Pvt) Ltd. The firm also owns award-winning Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and other blue-chip properties.
When we finally got to Bumi Hills recently, that year was almost up and Terry, Zimbabwean-born of Irish stock, was slightly coy about his next move.
I got the idea he and wife Joan, a Philadelphia-born safari buff he met while running a luxury lodge in Botswana, would be heading in the general direction of that country for their next venture.
All Terry would say was the Bumi Hills contract expires in November. He wasn’t renewing it. Tight-lipped, he added: “Nothing is tied-up yet. We’ll spend quality time with the family in December, then decide in the New Year.”
A specialist at getting start-up projects off to a sound beginning, he’s credited with opening luxurious Pamushana Lodge in the Lowveld,  having it accredited a prestigious Relais & Chateau establishment and running it successfully for six years. 
If Pamushana presented challenges sited, as it is, “in the middle of nowhere”, Bumi was even more daunting: a 90 minute boat voyage to the nearest shop in Kariba; an hour’s charter flight to Harare or Vic Falls.
Starting there a year ago, there was almost nothing in the stores of the Falls and Harare…absolutely nothing at Kariba! 
Yet almost everything in the 5-star lodge was located, priced, bought, delivered and installed in under 12 months. All plumbing, drainage and electrical circuits, every tap and switch, sheet and pillowcase, rug, carpet, stove and fridge were brought in:  mostly from across our borders,
Everything is sparklingly, squeakily clean; brand new out of the box: from face flannels to safari kombis, speed boats, even fishing rods and reels.
An exception is the venerable full-sized snooker table. That only needed re-covering, so a team of artisans from Harare was flown in, accommodated and fed, while specialist work was carried out.
Prize-winning chef Terry became clerk-of-works, architect, procurement ace, project manager, trouble shooter, time-keeper, recruiter and head-hunter, before Bumi Hills could serve its first gourmet meal, an initial chilled G&T, open its debut bottle of bubbly or brew its premier pot of coffee.
Loaded with tourism experience Terry was literally born into hospitality at Victoria Falls, serving an apprenticeship as chef and management trainee at Victoria Falls Hotel, he was to return to the famous hotel many years later as 2/i/c, afterwards as GM. 
His experience spans 40 years running some of the best known properties in southern Africa, including hotels and lodges in Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique.
Still boyishly youthful looking, he was GM of the original Elephant Hills, Victoria Falls when it was gutted by a rocket fired from Zambia, in 1979 during the war, and had the unenviable task of re-building and re-opening the well-loved resort –– a feat accomplished with distinction.
In the tightly-knit world of regional tourism there are many coincidences; I checked out of the “Hills” about an hour before a heat-seeking missile fired by Zipra from bush on the Zambian side of the mighty Zambezi missed its target: a light plane doing the Flight of Angels spin.
Instead, it homed into massive heat radiating from the hotel’s roof thatch.
A multi-million dollar investment, where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had spent part of a second honeymoon, was destroyed in minutes.
The last telex sent from there was to my office at the Information, Immigration and Tourism ministry, by Terry, outlining the disaster.
Among numerous other stints
were Chobe Game Lodge and
recently Flamingo Bay Water Lodge, Inhambane, Mozambique. I’ve also known him do odd locum jobs running such prestigious outlets as Victoria 22, when chef/patrons were away.
Wife, business partner and right-hand Joan, was well known to Hararians through running the hotel gift shop and silver gallery at Meikles. She organised a similar operation at Bumi Hills.
When Terry was too busy to eat with us at Imba Matomba, his then under-strapper Hemal Kanjee hosted.
Hemal (28) is now number two at Bumi, having been head-hunted by Terry. He is a third generation Zimbabwean of Indian heritage. His brother’s an Air Zimbabwe pilot. Married, he was at Harare’s Prince Edward School, a couple of years behind my son, Rhoderick.
Hemal holds the American Hotel and Lodges Association diploma, which he studied for here under Mike Farrell and trained at the Sheraton (now Rainbow Towers) Hotel. He did the Management Training Programme with Zim Sun at Victoria Falls Hotel, worked at Cresta Jameson and was Imba Matombo’s front office and rooms manager before moving to Bumi in August.
A possible future Zimbabwean celebratory chef is multi-talented Paddington Muguza, who cooked for us at Bumi Hills.
Again he’s 28 and was born in Harare. Engaged to be married, he was at school in Zengeza.
He holds a Bulawayo Poly Certificate in Professional Cookery, a Class 1 Cook journeyman card and Ethnic Dishes and Classical Presentation Certificate. He also has the Association of Hotel Schools of Southern Africa (AHSSA) –– participation certificate (representing Zimbabwe and taking 4th place); he took part in the prestigious Three Cities Young Chef of the Year (2005) competition, coming second.
Paddington trained and worked at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge as junior chef, being promoted senior chef.
He was at Imbabala Safari Lodge, near Kazungula (another AAT operation) as acting head chef,  returning to VFSL for a year as junior sous chef, before being promoted within the firm to become head chef Bumi Hills in August
Ambitious, he plans to write cook books, among future goals.

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