Friday, September 28, 2012

To be continued....

Forgive me father, it has been two years since my last post.  Much has changed, much has stayed the same, and I feel a great change is imminent (my wife's fortune cookie this week agrees with me).

I have opened a restaurant on South Street, had a son (Charlie, 8 mos.), and have moved twice.  The One Legged Chef took a hiatus, but something inside me stirs.  It is as if something has re-sparked, and it is a good feeling.  It's as if something new is evolving, but I already know what it is.  Born again?  Not really.  Wouldn't that imply that something has died?  Nothing has died.  There is only new life, and this is what I want to give to The One Legged Chef.  A new life.

I will leave this post short, with a promise to return quickly.  I also will begin more posts on my facebook page, which I encourage all of you to check out.



Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving with our nephew

I had two days off in a row for the first time since my honeymoon, and my wife and I traveled to Connecticut to see our nephew James (and of course the rest of the family). Part of me loves seeing James, as infrequently as I do, just to see family! But another part helps my wife and I look into the future world of parenthood. Smiles, toys, dribbling, medication administering, and lots and lots and lots of reading.
Looks fun!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Join the Free World

I caught an Associated Press article in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. Lawyer Peter Erlinder, infamous for taking on unpopular sides of the law, was in Rwanda helping Victoire Ingabire's legal team. If you recall, President Paul Kagame declared his opposition running man (Ingabire) an agitator and a promoter of genocidal ideology during his campaign against Kagame in the Presidential elections last year. Simply by association, Erlinder was jailed last Friday for "conspiring" with Ingabire. Erlinder is a professor of law and stands that the genocide of 1994 was instigated by both sides.

President Kagame has now sat as Rwanda's President since 2ooo when President Pasteur Bizimungu was deposed. Re-elected in 2003, his seven year term was coming to a close at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, Ingabire's campaign was crushed and Kagame continues as President. That is the short story.

The longer version stems from Kagame's humble beginnings as a guerilla who studied Che Guevara and fought in public and private wars in Congo, Uganda and the former Zaire. It was also claimed by several of his former intelligence officers that it was Kagame who ordered the plane to be shot down in 1994 (the spark that lit the genocide).

Rwanda is full of life today: economic, social, technological, touristic and agricultural. Kagame sits behind a large steering wheel; one with lots of power, but hard to turn off its path. The racial issues of the past (Belgian made, of course) still loom, but it should not prevent such an ally to turn its head on democracy and justice. The American Bar Association has directly spoken out to Kagame demanding that lawyers not be condemned for their clients actions (or lack thereof, in this case).

Erlinder tried to take his own life a couple of days ago by swallowing and overdosed amount of pills in his Rwandan cell. Is this really worth it? I understand genocide is unacceptable, but allowing this lack of freedom to continue is the Western world sympathizing with a "poor, uneducated, simple African country". Hey Rwanda! Is that what you are? Join the free world and set an example. Free Erlinder, and call for a new election!!!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

God's Creatures

Yesterday in the kitchen, we got news that tonight they would be bombing. This means that the exterminator is coming for his monthly visit, as they should in all food service facilities. It requires that the stewards cover and wrap any utensil used in food production: pans, plates, silverware, etc. It is a long a tedious job, but kind of breaks up the monotony of a dishwasher's daily chores.

I reminisced of the kitchen in Djibouti. It is a dream for a professional chef to open brand new kitchens. Everything is clean, new equipment, fresh menus and ideas; it's absolutely wonderful and inspiring. After a couple of months in Djibouti, I was checking over the Kitchen Department's finances, and came across two monthly bills from low and behold, an exterminator. This would not have caused me to pause except for the fact that I realized I had not seen a roach since I arrived! I quickly went out to the hot line where the cooks were busy with the lunch service, and called for the chef de partie on duty.

"Ali Abdullah! Viens ici!" He dropped his tongs and rag and jogged over. "Oui, chef." I asked him if he had seen any cafard? "Non, non chef. Qu'est ce que c'est des cafards?" My gosh, he didn't even know what they were. Amazing. So why were we spending money on an exterminator, you might ask? What is the most common household insect? What do you see on all of those misleading and misguided Sally Strothers commercials on dying African children? Flies. Flies were everywhere. So much, in fact, that we needed a bloody exterminator. I remember when we opened the hotel, there was a lot of excess trash including staff meals and packaging from unwrapped equipment. It had all been piled up in the loading dock awaiting removal. As I pulled up in my pickup, the entire pile, literally the size of an elephant (I should know), was black and moving, covered in flies.

The most interesting thing, socially, is the acceptance of the flies that occurs after a couple of months. Waving them away just becomes SO tiring, that one gives up. The land on your hands, legs, arms, hair, face and eventually, they fly away. All the swatting and smacking and frustration is a waste of time. They're God's creatures. (However, if you are in Djibouti and bored in the hot afternoon, sit down, have a cold beer and buy a cheap fly swatter. I think Charbel, Cedric, Djibrine and I counted 47 in 20 minutes. Beat that.)


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Plans for Philly's Kids

Michelle Obama's campaign against obesity in American children led her to invite several Philadelphian youth to the White House to help plant the Kitchen Garden. Teaching children where their food comes from is not a new idea. Jamie Oliver has been pushing food and nutrition education for the past decade, and school food is on every parent's proverbial dinner plate.

Regan's school vegetable "ketchup" showed us that we had better not leave the future of our children up to politicians, although the Obama's have so far proven to be champions of children's futures. I just hope any education reform goes more smoothly than his recent Wall Street reform. The biggest difference, instead of lobbyists for credit card companies, we face the soft drink lobbyists and the like. Will the mythical 5 cent/ounce sugar tax ever kick in?

I have my own plan. Along with my book, I have been sitting on a steering committee of s school to open in North Philly called St. James the Less. Last year, the diocese along with Father Mullen of St. Mark's Episcopal Church ran a City Camp for the local children. In the Western Clearview area, this is considered a vulnerable community and is in need of education reform. We are hoping to open a middle school on the property in the next year or so, but in the meantime, we are working on other projects such as afterschool programs in the meantime. I am opening a children's garden.

I will use this garden to instruct planting of seeds, maintaining the herb's and vegetable's growth, the harvesting, the cooking, and of course, the eating! My goal is to show children that food comes from the earth and not a McDonald's bag. That you can eat something green and have it still be delicious! This is the beginning of a new adventure for the One Legged Chef. Wish us luck!


Monday, May 10, 2010

The New Rwanda

Dear Readers, I am sorry its been awhile.

In last weekend's Saturday New York Times, a fascinating story on Rwanda appeared front page. Under the headline photo read "Hundreds of young adults and minors suspected of petty crimes have been rounded up and sent to an island in Lake Kivu." It later explains that those brought to the island in the middle of the huge western lake were being taught basic skills such a patriotic songs, marching, motorcycle maintenance, bricklaying and hairdressing. This is a classic social re-structuring format used in many pro-socialist African regimes, but in Rwanda, there are clearcut goals and clearcut problems.

The rebel buildup of genociders in Uganda and former-Zaire are a constant border problem. I myself was friends with the Lieutenant Colnel of the western RPF guard whose daily job it was to send guerilla patrols into the jungles in search for these militias. Rwanda is in constant need of trained military personnel and what better than a bootcamp for petty thieves and young male citizens already inclined towards danger or nefarious activities. Therfore, on one hand, the island on Lake Kivu could be a feeder into the RPF armies. A problem I see however is with the infrastructure of the prgram. One boy interviewed by the New York Times coorespondent begged to tell his father that he was alive. The boy was literally picked up off the street and sent west without any contact with the boy's family by telephone or otherwise. In African countries where a majority of families live without a phone or other telecommunication, it is atrocious to think that the government would practice such behavior.

Paul Kagame has pushed for a brighter and bigger future for his country. In fact, in the midst of the post economic global downslide, Rwandan businesses grow as does there business abroad. His love for his country is clear, and it has taken some strict policy, but has nonetheless been effective. This most recent (and internationally publicized) move on petty street criminals is not a step in the right direction. Too long Kagame has ignored the sound advice of European and other Western powers, but he must put the differences aside. It does not make sense to continually bad mouth and ignore countries who unfortunately were not there during the genocide. But they are there now, and deserve a voice. Kagame was a great general, but now must learn to be a great President.

You can read the story yourself at this link:


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Polish mission

Preface: a Dutch couple mentioned a beautiful Polish mission orphanage in northwest Rwanda. Their description: "totally amazing, but the trip is a little dangerous." Just the thing to spark my interest.

A few days after my GM left me in the mountains with the gorillas, I went into Ruhengeri (the second largest city in Rwanda), to chill out. I stopped by with a friend to a local bar/night club hangout called the White Gorilla and ordered a small bottle of Waragi (Ugandan "war gin")n and a coke. Some girls were dancing on the patio outside, and the guys at the bar were giving me the "white man" look-over. After the war gin started working, I got up and strolled over. "What's up fellas?" "AhHH! You are American! You see the gorillas?" "No, I'm just working up here at the Nest hotel. Say listen, do you guys know of a Polish mission northwest of here? Maybe near the Congo border?" One of the guys stood up and told me to wait. He got up, left the bar compound through the large white gates. I sat there drinking with the others, not saying much, until the kid returned close to 20 minutes later. A man in military fatigues with a RPF symbol sewed to his arm followed him. "This is my uncle Joseph. He knows the mission."

Its funny, one bottle of Waragi followed an adventure of border jumping, a gunfight with interamwe (Hutu killing squads of the genocide), gorilla infested jungle treking and a weekend with orphans dispersed by the events of 1994. But it is definetely not a PG story. You'll have to buy the book....