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Five-star cuisine and starry nights

By: Reading Time: 3 Minutes
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After six weeks crossing Kavango Zambezi National Park, living among oryx, antelope, and kudu herds, René Linke’s passport has just two blank pages remaining. The others are covered in stamps, testaments to his travels through Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. KTCHNrebel caught up to the globetrotting chef, who “normally” runs a catering business in Germany, to ask him about his experiences cooking for the Land Rover Experience Tour.

Welcome back. How was Africa?

Impressive. The animals, the landscape, the challenge of cooking for up to 40 people every day. Sometimes stressful as well, because we only averaged about five hours of sleep a night.

Why?

Well, there was one night where we had to change four flat tires. Which means four people changing tires, and four people standing there holding pepper spray to drive the animals away. Another night, we hardly got any sleep at all, because we were in tents, and we had lions walking right past the tents on their way to the watering hole. Fortunately, they were gone by morning. We didn’t have anything for them anyway, though – we always kept our food and our trash safely stored in the vehicles, to avoid attracting animals.

So what did you have on the menu for the participants?

We always did something hearty for breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon, hot dogs. And I managed to get some of that famous chocolate-hazelnut spread in Windhuk, for those who wanted something sweet in the morning. For dinner I did pork, beef, and antelope, among others. But the best of all was the oryx. Better than the best steak you can imagine.

Landrover Experience Tour RATIONAL

Image: Craig Pusey

How’d you do your cooking?

I did a lot of different things. One night I made chili over an open fire. One meat version, one vegetarian, of course. Another time, I made dough out of flour, yeast, beer, and herbs, and put it in a Dutch oven, which I buried underground for an hour and a half to cook. Served with some herb butter. Simple, but really delicious.

What about when you wanted to do something a little more complex?

I had my SelfCookingCenter with me for those. I installed it into the back of a Land Rover Discovery using a specially designed kit, and ran it using a transformer. That was all I needed to cook everything.

Did you get any compliments or criticism for your food?

The highest praise I got was from one of the journalists riding with us. He didn’t want to eat at the hotel – after he tried my cooking a couple of times, the hotel food wasn’t good enough for him anymore. He called my food Michelin star-worthy. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Landrover Experience Tour RATIONAL catering

Image: Craig Pusey

Did you learn African cooking while you were there?

Well, we learned a little bit about it. One day we met up with some bush people, who taught us about their food. I was especially impressed with their method of getting liquids. When the weather is dry for a really long time, they smash the pulp of a plant to get liquid out. Just a few drops, but it’s enough. We returned the favor by cooking them a European-style dinner.

What was the most challenging part?

Cooking by headlamp. It gets dark by 7 PM at the latest, and we hardly ever got to camp before then. So I didn’t have a choice. The food always tasted good, though.

So when does Land Rover Experience number eight get underway?

We’ll most likely start again in 2021. This one will be a little colder than the last one. But I don’t want to give away the exact destination – that would spoil the surprise.

Thanks very much for talking to us, Mr. Linke!

 

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