Foodie got husband, business and mojo from the kitchen
Preparing sumptuous meals for her family was what Carol Waithira Mühlenbrock loved to do. Whenever there were parties, family gatherings and birthdays, she was trusted to prepare delicious dishes.
However, this was not the career she envisioned, as being a chef didn’t have a great reputation then.
Carol studied law and furthering her education and career was all she ever desired to do when she landed in Germany in 2006. This was her second time as she had already visited the country in 2005. She knew in her heart that this would be the place to start her apprenticeship in law. But fate landed her in the kitchen.
“When she came to Germany, she couldn’t do anything else due to language barrier. She started first by cleaning dishes in a restaurant while she was waiting for her papers to be certified,” narrates her husband Stephan Mühlenbrock, a restaurateur as well.
She was then promoted to a waitress.As a waitress, she would go to the kitchen once in a while. She fell in love with the kitchen and always fell at home while there. And it was in this kitchen where her now husband, too worked, assisting his parents with the restaurant, which was a 40-year-family business.
“We would wait for each other after work. After our shifts, we would spend hours and hours in front of the restaurants open fire place chatting laughing and having several beers,” he continues.
Their relationship blossomed and in 2015, they tied the knot. In 2016, they started their own restaurant. However, when Covid-19 hit the world in 2020, resulting to restrictions and shut-down of businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, Carol decided to go digital. She saw an opportunity to not only teach people how to prepare dishes but also eat healthy.
“I was mostly alone in the kitchen because all our employees were at home. I would just record myself dancing while cooking. When I posted the first video on Facebook, many people loved it and that’s how I started content creation,” she says.
The mother of two now has an English YouTube Channel- Chef Carol’s Show and a German one, Afrika Kulinarisch, where she teaches her fellow German speaking followers how to cook African dishes. She also teaches people how to prepare healthy and nutritious plantbased foods.
“I want to promote our traditional food as the best option because this is what our grandmothers were cooking and during that time, diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity were not common. These are diseases that are brought by the kind of lifestyle we have adopted. I also love a good laugh and so, I use humour to reach people. Even as I dance, I pass a message— just be grateful and enjoy your life,” she shares.
Carol adds that culture shock, was also another reason she started cooking African food. Though she needed to get used to German food, teaching Germans about African food would make her get a taste of home.
Her Facebook page, ‘Karibuni Jikoni’ is another place where she connects with her followers and where she also writes on different topics.
“I have now started shooting videos on YouTube, telling people my stories and motivating people through my life experiences. I tell people to be strong and give some advice or two to someone who might need it in The Stories of an African Woman— Deep Conversations,” she explains.
That Carol does not adhere to a given recipe as she likes creativity posed a challenge to her German followers, who are strict on recipes.
Family and business
“There is a lot of work that goes into preparation, shooting of videos and editing, and this happens outside our normal working ours. I normally shoot on days when the restaurant is closed, that way, I don’t interrupt normal business. I also do cooking classes in German, which people love so much. This happens almost every Thursday in the winter months,” continues Caroline.
Her husband has been supportive. Stephan ensures that the children are taken care of and is always the man behind her ideas.
“I celebrate her and give her every support she needs to be successful. I sometimes join in during her dance videos and always get excited watching her come up with new ideas, such as inviting German star chefs or having the show aired in a German television,” he says.
Balancing between family, business and content creation hasn’t been a walk in the park for the duo. This is because they have the same working hours being in the same business as well as the weekends when their children are home and not in school.
“We always have breakfast and lunch as a family. We then check who has less work in the evening to be with the children,” says Stephan.
Running the restaurant together is on one hand a challenge because they had to learn to separate business and private matters. The great thing is that they work in different departments; while Carol works in the kitchen, Stephan serves in the front; hosting and serving the guests.
“Stephan is great at dealing with guests as he is friendly and helpful. He has a way with people and even when there is a lot to do and is stressful, he manages to remain cool,” says Carol.
They are careful to separate business and familly, and rarely talk about work after they step inside the house. “We try not to talk about work while sitting at the table with the children. We also try not to pick calls when we are eating. These are the only bonding moments we have as a family,” adds Stephan.
Nurturing young cook
Their 10-year-old daughter is also keen to follow this family talent and often follows Carol to the kitchen.
“My daughter is often in the kitchen with me, she even cooks for us, her avocado cream is the best. She would love to join me in my cooking videos, but mostly I shoot when she is in school,” observes Carol.
Carol desires to reach as many people as possible, especially chefs and motivate them to hold on to their dreams and work hard towards achieving them. In the future, she desires to have more screen presence, and write.
“She might consider writing a book because many people have been asking for it. She loves playing with words and is at home in front of the screen teaching people on how to prepare and cook food and inspiring them to live a better in life,” says Stephan in ending.