Tom Kamuti: From Selling Sandwiches And Quesadillas In Offices To Founding Crave Kitchen

Tom Kamuti Ngugi, the proprietor of Crave Kitchen, has come a long way in his culinary journey. Starting from selling sandwiches in offices around Kikuyu town, he has now established one of the most popular fresh food restaurants and bakeries in Kenya.

Crave Kitchen offers a unique dining experience, with a focus on delicious food at affordable prices.

Here is the story of Tom Kamuti Ngugi as told by WoK

The Journey

Chef Tom’s passion for cooking started when he left for the UK at the age of 19. After completing two years of culinary arts college, he began working as a professional chef in a commercial kitchen at the age of 21.

His love for music has influenced his culinary journey, with different genres marking different phases in his life. He believes that the kitchen is where his heart is, and he cherishes the joy of cooking for others.

Humble Start

In the early stages, Crave Kitchen was born out of necessity for Chef Tom to make ends meet. He would wake up at 3:00 am to prepare sandwiches and quesadillas, which he would distribute to various offices in Kikuyu town.

Despite facing initial rejection, his perseverance and belief in his products led him to leave free samples along with his contact details whenever potential clients declined his offerings.

His Breakthrough and Expansion

The entrepreneur breakthrough came when a client who had previously received a free sample called to order a sandwich and quesadilla. Impressed by the quality, the client became a loyal customer. 

This pivotal moment opened doors for Chef Tom, who was then invited to set up a small table to sell his food at the client’s workplace. The demand grew so rapidly that he had to enlist the help of his sister to manage the queues.

Crave Kitchen’s commitment to serving fresh food remains a core value. Chef Tom believes in involving customers, staff, and the kitchen team in creating the menus. This collaborative approach ensures that the restaurant caters to the preferences and desires of its patrons. Each dish reflects the passion and creativity of the entire team.

A Connection to Farming Roots

Chef Tom’s upbringing on a farm in Kanjeru, near Kikuyu, has played a significant role in shaping his culinary career.

Although he initially had reservations about farm work as a child, he now appreciates how those experiences have influenced his cooking style and connection to food.

Living on a farm to this day, Chef Tom values the connection to nature and the farm-to-table concept.

Creating the Perfect Chill Spot

Crave Kitchen’s growth led Chef Tom to lease and renovate an old building, transforming it into a welcoming and cozy dining spot.

The ambiance and atmosphere of the restaurant contribute to the overall experience for guests. Chef Tom recognizes the importance of creating an environment that attracts and retains customers, making them feel at home.

The joint is located in Kikuyu town, just 40 minutes away from Nairobi CBD. It stands out among the cliché and overpriced Nairobi restaurants, offering a refreshing and laid-back atmosphere.

The restaurant is beautifully designed, with creative touches and a rustic feel. Local artists and artisans have the opportunity to showcase their works, adding a unique charm to the dining experience.

Delicious Food and Bakery Treats

The menu at Crave Kitchen is diverse and affordable, providing a great alternative to typical fast food options.

Chef Tom’s love for chicken is evident, with both roasted and crispy chicken options available. The roasted chicken, served with kachumbari and ugali, is a filling and satisfying meal, while the crispy chicken is ideal for lighter appetites.

Additionally, the restaurant boasts a bakery section, offering a mouthwatering selection of cakes and pastries, including a delightful rainbow cake.

Hosting Fun Events

Crave Kitchen goes beyond being just a restaurant by hosting exciting and engaging events. From morning yoga sessions to singing nights and weekend thrift markets, there’s always something happening at Crave Kitchen.

The Value of Supportive Relationships

Chef Tom underscores the significance of surrounding oneself with the right people who provide love and moral support, especially when starting and running a business.

The encouragement and assistance from his sister and other supportive individuals played a vital role in his journey. Building a network of like-minded individuals helps navigate the challenges and celebrate the successes together.

The Importance of Taking Action

Chef Tom’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to overcome hesitation and take the first step in starting a business.

He emphasizes that hesitating or overthinking can be detrimental to success. By starting in a small bedsitter and gradually expanding, Chef Tom exemplifies the power of initiative and a proactive mindset.