Kenneth Lomericol Kimaiwa, from the remote village of Kinyach in Baringo North, who had the privilege of cooking for two former presidents, the late Daniel Arap Moi and the late Mwai Kibaki has joined other Kenyans in paying glowing tribute to the latter.
Kimaiwa was employed in 1998, courtesy of former personal secretary to president Moi and deployed to Eldoret State Lodge as a driver for the late president.
He says since that opportunity had not yet opened, he landed himself in the garden, where he only worked for only one month and was reassigned to the kitchen as a supervisor, where his terms and conditions of service was converted into permanent and pensionable.
Kimaiwa who served as a cook for the late President Moi at the Eldoret State Lodge until he retired in 2002 says that one day in 2005, the now deceased president Kibaki and the late First Lady Lucy Kibaki, visited the lodge and they were pleased with the kind of food he had prepared for them.
During the eve of Christmas festivity of the same year, he was informed that he was required at Mombasa State House by Lucy Kibaki the following day.
“I was at my Kinyach home that moment when I was told that the first lady wanted me to report at Mombasa state house. It was my first time to board a plane as I missed a Mombasa bound bus in Nairobi by a whisker. I quickly thought and went straight to State House, Nairobi, where I explained myself and the staff arranged for a flight which I boarded with the late Kibaki that same day,” he said.
In an exclusive interview with KNA at the Baringo Information office in Kabarnet Monday, Kimaiwa, 59, described the late retired president as humble, outgoing and a person who loved his employees.
“I will forever remain thankful to the late president and his wife for recognizing my efforts and giving me an opportunity to cook and serve them. It was during this period that I got to know some of his children including Judy and Jimmy Kibaki,” says Kimaiwa who remembers his stay at the State House with nostalgia.
He notes that his first day at Mombasa State House was punctuated with fear and trembling, since he was the only cook and was being supervised by the former first lady but thanks God that he managed to exceed her expectations.
When the first family left for Nairobi after New Year celebrations, Kimaiwa who currently serves as a Chief cook at Kenya School of Government (KSG), Kabarnet campus, says Lucy recommended his transfer to Nairobi State House.
“My dedication, commitment and mannerism might have pleased the Kibakis’ and that is why they recommended me to serve at Nairobi State House upon leaving Mombasa, a job I took with a lot of zeal,” he narrates.
Kimaiwa explains that he cooked for Kibaki up to 2008, when he requested for a transfer since the work had overwhelmed him. He used to wake up as early as 5am and sign out past midnight after preparing a menu for the next day.
The late president, Kimaiwa points out, enjoyed local delicacies like Managu, Cabbages, Njahi, Arrow roots, roasted Potatoes, Mukimo, Pork and white meat including Fish as well as Chicken.
The chief cook, who no longer cooks but only does supervision at the institution says that one uniqueness with Kibaki was the fact that he would instruct him to carry along with him foodstuff and cooking equipment whenever he was traveling to even beyond the country.
“Before he leaves the State House for visits across the country and beyond, he would first check on me to see to it that I am also ready with my tools of trade,” says Kimaiwa.
Kimaiwa who says he has never enrolled for any course in hospitality, but only gained skills and knowledge on food preparation from work place, states that his performance culminated to a stronger bond with the then first family as he could be entrusted with all the cooking department even on Sundays when Kibaki’s attended mass.
The Form Two drop out says he will remain indebted to Kibaki for allowing him to serve at State House for the entire first term and part of the second term, adding that his tour of duty in the ‘house on the hill’ gave him an opportunity to tour countries like China, South Arabia, Tanzania and South Sudan just to mention a few.
“For the period I served as head cook at State House, I had no leave or off days, since the nature and volume of work would not allow me to do so. I therefore requested for a transfer since the work was very tedious and the fact that I was missing my family members in Baringo,” he says adding the closest he came to being honored with Head of State Commendation (HSC), was on Jamhuri day of 2007, but missed out due to some logistical issues.
“I am optimistic that one day I shall be honored for my work of serving two former presidents for 20 years,” he said, even as he appealed to the funeral committee, chaired by Interior CS Dr. Fred Matiang’i, to consider facilitating him to attend the burial of his former boss in his Othaya Home in Nyeri County, since he missed that of the late President Moi and former First Lady Lucy Kibaki.
“I will really appreciate it if I am invited to attend the ceremony so that I can pay my last respects to my boss, after missing out on the burial ceremonies of former first lady Lucy Kibaki, and Second President Daniel Moi,” he stressed.
The cook, who was born to a family of seven, and raised in the remote village of Kinyach in Baringo North Sub-County, joined school late, as his father preferred him to herd family livestock, thus curtailing his quest for education.
“Immediately I dropped out of school, I enrolled for a driving course in Eldoret and after completion I again went to the village, where I served at the home of late retired president Moi’s longest serving personal secretary John Lokorio.
He says that he worked for Lokorio as his farm manager at Kalabata, until when he rewarded him with employment at Eldoret State Lodge, where he started interacting with the late second president of the Republic of Kenya Daniel Arap Moi.
By Benson Kelio and Joshua Kibet