Born and raised in Mombasa Kenya, Frida Karani is flying the Kenyan flag high in the US military far away from home. Her passion for the art of cooking dates back to when she was ten years and little did she know that this could be her forte, opening up life’s many doors and opportunities to show the world what she is made of.
As Karani narrates, she attributes her current success to the seed her grandmother planted in her at a young age by pushing her to learn how to cook so as she could do it for her family later in life. Karani who has won many accolades for her exceptional skills in the kitchen is now serving at The Pentagon which is the headquarters of the US Department of Defence.
Frida who had initially thought of pursuing a course in customer service after her high school education began her professional journey when she joined Utalii College in Kenya where she studied food production and just like many other fresh graduates from college, she was tarmacking trying to get a job.
After graduating from Utalii College, Karani worked in Kenya in the hotel industry before moving to Dubai in 2004 where she served as a saucier at the Hyatt Regency on a two-year contract. It is after her contract with Hyatt Regecny came to an end that she opted not to renew it but decided to apply for American Hospitality Academy (AHA) on an exchange programme.
“I applied for the programme and got accepted. I didn’t renew my contract with Hyatt. In August 2006 I was on a plane to Florida to start my one-year exchange programme,” said Frida.
While in the US for the exchange programme, Frida got the opportunity to join one of the most prestigious culinary arts schools in the world, Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts which has over 23 out outlets in five continents.
Fast forward to 2010 and Frida was recruited into the US Navy serving as a petty officer first class, life was not easy for her as he tried to adopt.
“When I got here, I had a few friends from home who helped me settle down. I won’t lie; I had a bit of culture shock. I mean I had been to Dubai, but Dubai people way of life reminded of Coast. But here, it was a new ball game. Life is pretty fast too and bills, well, we won’t talk about bills,’she said.
Karani acknowledged that women are now taking over what was considered a male dominated industry in the military.
“Nowadays, women are giving men a run for their money. Equal opportunity and hard work always pay off,” said Karani.
After six years in service, Karani, 37, won the Armed Forces Chef of the Year Competition in she admitted was not an easy task convincing the judges. Her rather mysterious ingredients resulting to a four-course menu won the heart of the judges defeating 21 contestants.
“The completion was pretty tough. All the chefs were very well trained,” admits Karani.
Karani made history as the second woman in the 41 year-long competition to win after Army Sergeant Sarah Deckert who won in 2014.
Her other accolades include being named the Joint Staff Sailor of the Year, Enlisted Aide of the year all in 2016,while in 2017 she scooped two awards, Enlisted of the Year again and Joint Exercise Grand Prix winner(competing against Royal Armed Forces).
Despite the fact that Frida started learning how to cook at the age 10, at the age of 37, she is till perfecting her art and she says learning never stops.
“With trends changing, cooking is something you want to learn every single day and improve your skill,” urges Frida.
Through her success, Frida calls upon young people to stay focused on their goals because they have the power to do it.
“The best thing I liked about America is that you can make or break yourself. You can make your path as long as you keep your head straight and focus whether you are a man or a woman. Someone once told me if you are in a room with people and you are the smartest one, leave. Always challenge yourself and that’s what I do,” she concludes.