It can be a draining affair planning a big party, may it be at home or in the corporate setting, let alone trying to think of what to make as appetisers and snacks to keep guests satiated the full length of the party.
Ann Wanyoike, a former pilot, set up a business—Amazing Graze Kenya, specialising in creating charcuterie tables or grazing boards for events, parties, and meetings among other special occasions, to fill this gap.
Her business is a buildup of love for all things cheese and cured meats, and wine.
After university, in 2003, she worked for a wine company where she was introduced to the world of wine and cheese pairing.
It involved presentations with plenty of cured speciality meats, and gourmet cheeses accompanied by a variety of other snacks.
“This is when that seed and culinary curiosity was planted.”
Then in 2020, her brother’s newly launched business was introducing wines from Barossa Valley, Australia. He sought to tap into her experience to help with the marketing of these newly introduced wines.
“This meant being creative. I drew from my previous experience. Creativity on my end came in the form of cheese and meat pairings for the wine-tasting events which were happening around Nairobi,” she says.
Innately, during this journey, she was collecting valuable morsels of information from reactions and experiences from the local market on the relatively new culinary culture of charcutering.
By this time, Ms Wanyoike who had been enjoying a sprawling career in the aviation industry, flying to different corners of the continent had just hung her flying wings in 2019, upon the appreciation of the dissonance between extensive travelling and raising a son-then two. She was ready to venture into something new.
Although she admits she had no real strategy, she was willing to take a chance and pursue something she had developed a passion for.
Also, her brother had noticed how well received her wine pairings had been everywhere they went to market his business.
Her big break came when a wine enthusiast asked him to organise a wine tasting for his family during a Christmas Eve dinner in 2020. He would recommend that they pair the wine tasting with a grazing table.
“And so, sprouting out of these routine wine-food pairings, here it was…my very first charcuterie order. I was so excited and terrified at the same time. But when it all came together I was blown away by my own creativity. Most people ask me where I learned to do this and I tell them jokingly, ‘from the ‘University of Pinterest’,” she quips.
“From that first order, I have immersed myself in the charcuterie and the grazing world, a trend that is also a new and growing business in the Western world. Grazing tables, grazing boards, charcuterie boards, among others are some of the names you will hear from us.”
So, what exactly is grazing?
“Grazing is a pattern of eating that involves consuming multiple meals throughout the day,” explains Ms Wanyoike, “Instead of the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner, grazers snack throughout the day on an assortment of healthy options like cheeses, small salads, fruit, lean meats, nuts, and other nutrient-rich foods.”
Hence its synonymy with charcuterie spreads, which refer to cold cooked, cured, or smoked meats. “So in the most ‘official’ sense, a traditional charcuterie board is just a meat platter. The word ‘charcuterie’ was used to describe shops in 15th-century France that sold products made from pork, including the pig’s internal organs.”
She explains that a typical charcuterie board consists mainly of meats and cheeses.
Common meats that are considered to be charcuterie include salami, ham and prosciutto. Dry-cured chorizo and mortadella are also regularly-used meats. Cheese is all about preference.
“But as these spreads have gotten more popular for entertaining, the everyday definition has expanded to include abundant displays of a variety of meats (cured), cheeses, dried and fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, flavorful olives, crackers, bread, pickles and complementary condiments and dips such as hummus, jams, chutneys, mustards and other accoutrements.”
This method of eating has become a global sensation at get-togethers. Charcuterie boards were one of the highlights of the Grammys this year.
She goes on, “what I love is that it’s an adventure to build and to eat,” as she notes, “this being a relatively new culture in Kenya, I’m always ready to answer questions. There’s bound to be a question directed to me or an ingredient that is new to someone. I’m always ready to offer suggestions on taste pairings for the perfect bite with all the fixins, if I’m at the event.”
She says although Amazing Graze has experienced a steady growth graph, its biggest challenge is educating people about the products. “Most of our efforts have gone into marketing campaigns and promotions.
We are an online business and social media has been our biggest driver, as well as marketing through social media influencers.”
“We equally have moved into the corporate world and we’re hoping to gain traction there.”