Luxury Dining in Kenya: Macaroni and Cheese Served by a White Waiter

(Photo: Sven Torfinn/New York Times)

Nairobi is a rapidly growing city opening to international markets. There's an emerging status symbol among wealthy Kenyans that some clever restaurateurs have exploited: being waited on by a white person at a restaurant. In the New York Times, Jeffrey Gettleman describes the scene at the Caramel, a high-end restaurant:

The other night, Martin Mileveski, a smiley young man from Macedonia, leaned over a table of three immaculately dressed Kenyan women and delicately poured out the Captain Morgan rum.

“Anything else I can get you ladies?”

They smiled and he drifted away.

“That’s kind of cool,” said one of the women, Lawrencia Namulanda. “A mzungu,” or foreigner.

The food that Mileveski serves includes macaroni and cheese, a dish seen as quintissentially American. Other members of the staff are also white or from the West. Their presence draws in customers:

The other night Caramel featured a hostess from Las Vegas, a leggy bartender from San Diego, a chef from Goa, Mr. Mileveski and another young man from Macedonia. The foreigners made up a small percentage of the total staff but were definitely the most visible. Some said they were here for just a short time, to train Kenyans; others said they planned to stay awhile.

“I see job in Internet, I come Africa,” said Nenad Angelovski, the other Macedonian import, whose English was not nearly at the level of the Kenyan waiters. “I like Africa. I like adventure.”

There have previously been a handful of Westerners running restaurants here, the occasional Italian maître d’hôtel or Israeli manager helping bring a hot plate to a table or making a wine suggestion. But when Caramel opened in September, the word quickly spread: mzungu waiters, mzungu waiters. Many Kenyan customers said it was the first time they ever had their dirty dishes cleared by a white person.

“We never had anything like this in Nairobi,” said Cecilia Wairimu, a well-known Kenyan singer who recently dined at Caramel. “I think it’s awesome.”

Like any other motivation, racism provides a market that can be exploited profitably.

-via Marginal Revolution

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