If you are a Rwandan or Burundian on Twitter, you probably follow or have stumbled on the name Arnaud Gwaga Mugisha, or at least his sumptuous roasted meat delights.
On May 28, Mugisha held his first signature meat roasting event, Meat Gala 44, in Kigali, to ensure that people who follow his posts on social media get a chance to excite their taste buds with his meats.
The New Times caught up with the 36-year-old Burundian entrepreneur, photographer, and aspiring chef to discuss his idea of bringing people together through meat, and how he juggles professional work with life in general.
Please provide a short overview of your personal history.
I was born and raised in Burundi in a family of four children, being the second born. Growing up, I aspired to be an entrepreneur, and I began working at the age of 15 for my evening math tutor as a tuition and debt collector. I later pursued my education in the U.S. at the University of Oklahoma (OU), majoring in General Management with a minor in Finance. I am married, with a son called Mukiza.
What do you do for a living or practice professionally?
Today, I manage a marketing and communications agency called Gwaga. It is an agency based in Bujumbura but with operations in Malawi (communications) and Uganda (marketing IT solutions).
I also cook as a side hustle.
You seem to wear many hats as a marketing and communications expert, photographer, and chef. How do you juggle it all?
My primary job is at the marketing agency. That’s where I get the means to feed my family and that is where I spend 80 per cent of my time. The rest is when I find time for it.
What some people might not know, I am still a photographer with most of my activities tied to the communication sector, mainly dealing with international NGOs, public institutions, and more.
I am glad that the agency has a strong team of dedicated professionals who don’t need any micro supervision. This has given me enough time to focus on my newest hobby; cooking and hosting the Meat Gala 44.
Let us talk about Meat Gala 44, how did this idea come about?
Well, I started cooking three years ago when my business wasn’t doing well, forcing my wife and me to cut costs and quit eating out. Cooking became a form of therapy.
As I started sharing dishes via Twitter and Instagram (44foodavenue), people started encouraging me to do it for money or at least organise a BBQ event once in a while.
One day, I asked my wife if we could do it for just 50 guests and she agreed to try it. The first edition of Meat Gala 44 was fully booked in 48hrs. Amazing!
You recently held your first event in Rwanda, how did you decide to export the idea?
For the past few months, inspired by how Rwandans have started visiting Bujumbura again and vice versa, we saw it as an opportunity to export the Meat Gala 44 vibe to Kigali. We were contacted by Tania’s Cuisine & Lounge to give it a try and it became successful.
How did you like the first edition?
To our great surprise, the first edition was successful, although we still have to fix a few things to make it the #meatgala44 that everyone in Burundi knows. Normally, the event is held in a garden and people are allowed to bring their own beverages, games, and desserts.
Something else worth mentioning, a lot of Burundians crossed the border for the event.
Many people on social media said that they missed out on the first one. Is this something you intend to be doing in Kigali regularly?
It would be great if we could organise it on a quarterly basis, but we first need to cover the logistical operations of finding different gardens, and host partners.
As a meat lover, weigh in on this long-standing debate. Is overconsumption of meat dangerous? How do you manage to consume ample meat and stay healthy?
Overconsumption of meat is bad, especially red meat. I am trying to cut down the amount I personally consume at home, but it is not easy at all with so many flavours and recipes left to try out. I find solace in believing that exercise helps me stay healthy.
The noise pollution guidelines have hugely hindered many hangout places in Kigali, mainly because not everyone has the financial capability to install soundproofing in their bars. And definitely, not all bars of Kigali are in disunited areas.
What is your recipe and specialty?
My #meatgala44 recipe is made of two types of marinades, that is basil and coriander sauces, but my specialty is in pit roasting beef for almost 18hrs.
What do you have to say about Rwandans and Burundians being able to ‘meat’ and socialise again in recent months?
Seeing Burundians and Rwandans visiting each other again brings me joy because so many business opportunities can be created. Also, it is amazing to see two types of party vibes in one place. It would be even nicer if we could organise a bigger event at the border with people from Burundi and Rwanda.