Passion to Serve
Chef Uses Cooking Skills to Serve Country
Culinary Specialist 1st Class Frida Karani likes to say that a peaceful kitchen makes her nervous - and it shows.
"I have found that a Sailor's morale is actually steered with the food you put in front of them," she said. "A lot of time, you have Sailors coming off of watch - they are tired, they are sleepy - but, when they see a nice plate of food, they get excited, and that is why I do what I do."
Karani currently serves as the enlisted aide to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She has won numerous accolades during her time in the Navy and cooked in competitions on an international level, but her love for the culinary began in her family's humble kitchen, nearly eight thousand miles away in Mombasa, Kenya.
"The passion for cooking comes from my grandmother," said Karani. "When I was little, my grandmother used to tell me to hang around with her in the kitchen. As I grew up and realized how food is important to people, that passion grew even more."
Family meals were an important part of Karani's daily life in Mombasa. Both of her parents worked long hours, so her grandmother's home-cooked dinners became a time to bond.
"People come together during meal times," said Karani. "So for me growing up, everyone was in school; everyone was working. My parents would go to work very early in the morning, leaving my grandmother at home taking care of the little things during the day. At the end of the day, however, we all sat down and enjoyed a meal. So that was a time we could catch up with what's going on in each other's lives. Now that I'm grown up, it still plays the same role."
Karani is very passionate about the food from her home country, and still vividly recalls the meals her grandmother made.
"There is a dish called pilau; it's a mix of rice and cumin and you can add potatoes if you like," she explained. "It comes with a side tomato salad called kachumbari. There's also nyama choma, which is goat meat that is roasted, and there's chapatti - that's a flatbread that comes from the coastal side where I was born. There's a lot of different dishes that we make that are amazing. I think everything from home is good.
"Every time I make the traditional dishes, it makes me feel like I'm home. It brings that memory of my family gathered around, sitting, eating and having a good time. It brings a lot of childhood memories," continued Karani, who also loves the challenge of working with lamb.
In addition to food, Karani's other love is for travel, and she's managed to combine the two. She attended school for culinary arts in Kenya for two years before being offered a job as Saucier at the Hyatt Regency in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. After two more years, she accepted a culinary internship with JW Marriott Grand Lakes hotel in Orlando, Florida, and traveled to the United States. The internship soon evolved into a full-time position. At the same time, she began attending culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu.