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#MadeAtLeiths: Anita Kerai on retracing her culinary roots

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#MadeAtLeiths: Anita Kerai on retracing her culinary roots

Anita Kerai shares her story on how took a leap and travelled home to Kenya to explore the flavours of her childhood.

I was a qualified accountant having spent over 15 years working in television and media as a finance manager for Sony Pictures and Kantar World Panel.

The thought of turning my hobby into my job had been with me since my daughter was born; eleven years ago. So finally, in February 2017 at the age of 41, I took the plunge to turn my dream into a reality. The buzz of working in the entertainment industry was invigorating, but I wanted to incorporate this with food, cooking and most importantly promoting healthy eating; so I enrolled myself at Leiths on the ‘How to be a Food Presenter’ course.

In search for over 2 months, I had been looking at various cookery courses but would always come back to the course at Leiths. On a Sunday evening, 3 days before the course was due to start, I pressed the button and paid for it. I chose Leiths as the course brought both the element of cooking and media together.

The programme was enjoyable, intense and fun. I got to learn that cooking on TV is much more challenging than what people think; when to speak, what tone to use, where to place your hands, autocue, but most importantly to keep on smiling. What I personally found challenging was looking at the camera and talking whilst cooking. I always found myself looking around instead of looking at the camera. By week four, I was able to speak to the camera as if I was talking to a friend. This might sound insane but in my mind I would actually be doing this and I slowly began to improve and become more focused.

Return to KenyaMy favourite memory of my time at Leiths is when we were doing co-presenting and I kept pronouncing another student, Lewis’s name incorrectly. Funny enough that is what I endearingly kept calling him throughout the course. It was in this time when I realised I wanted to tell other people’s stories through food and that co-presenting was something that I had a natural flair for.

The Leiths course highlighted many of my strengths, weakness and showed me the area of food that I wanted to focus on. I finished the course in April 2017 and set up my own cookery school - Anita’s Kitchen in Harrow - started doing videos for my social media platforms, and in October 2017 became a presenter on Simply Good Food TV. Passionate about child obesity I also work with primary schools teaching kids from reception to year 6 to cook healthy meals, have fun with vegetables with a focus on food waste.

As I am a third generation Kenyan, it was clear that Indian and Kenyan cuisine is not deeply known in the western world. The idea of a documentary series 'Return to Kenya' with an accompanying book 'Flavours of Kenya' was born in December 2017.

I had not been home for 22 years and wanted to retrace my culinary roots that have shaped me into the chef that I am today. There were times when I found things quite difficult, but Tony who used to be my tutor at Leiths, encouraged and pushed me to my maximum abilities, which is another aspect of Leiths I loved. All the tutors were brilliant, supportive and experienced.

Without the course, I would have not known how to begin such a massive project. But I now have the knowledge and experience to understand what goes on behind the scenes; everything from concept, research, getting sponsorship, location research, what recipes to choose, what to wear during filming, production fees, license fees, how to adapt to when the filming doesn’t goes as planned, voice over and pitching to TV companies to get the series aired.

My book, 'Flavours of Kenya', was a totally different experience. Managing everything from keen friends nagging me to release my treasured family recipes, deciding which recipes to write, editing, pitch to publishers or self-publish, recipe measurement, designing the cover and photos, the list is endless.

In the end, it all worked out. The series is airing on Amazon Prime in UK, Europe, and USA along with other channels in the pipeline, with the e-book and printed book sold on Amazon.

My mum always used to say that the best gift you can give someone is to feed them. I have taken it a step further by teaching, providing a life skill and showing children how to live and eat green.

I would say to anyone starting out is to research and try different parts of the food industry in order to build your career. I believe it is better to try and fail then to have regrets. That one decision I made 2 years ago - to join Leiths - has completely changed my direction in life and opened many new doors for me.

There was a time I did not know what to call myself but now it’s clear; I’m a TV presenter, chef, and an author.


If you dream of a career in food, come along to our friendly Open Evening on 5th June.

At Leiths, there a range of paths to your dream career, from our How to Be a Food Presenter course, to our Food Styling course, Recipe Writing classes to Nutrition in Culinary Practice or our full time Diploma.

Share your Leiths memories using the #MadeAtLeiths hashtag.


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