Bringing African cuisine to Dubai

Ian Alexander – GM, KIZA Restaurant and Lounge

Shereen Shabnam

Recently we ventured out to spend a summer afternoon with Ian Alexander, General Manager KIZA Restaurant and Lounge who took the role as it gave him the opportunity to tell the story of African cuisine, which he believes is underrated, unknown, and misunderstood on a global scale.

Ian has been in the hospitality industry with a career spanning over 18 years. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, Ian began his career in the hospitality field, working for prominent corporate brands such as Sun International and the Cape Town International Convention Center.

His ambition was always to work abroad and expand his career on a global scale so when he was approached by an agency working on KIZA Restaurant and Lounge, a Pan African restaurant in Dubai, he  took the challenge of taking Pan African cuisine to new heights in Dubai.

With a background in food and beverage, Ian saw it as a chance to be the voice for African cuisine and showcase its excellence. He embarked on a mission to revamp the restaurant’s interiors, develop a new menu, and create brand-new experiences.

Ian’s vision for KIZA is to bring African excellence to the forefront of the global stage. With Africa’s rich cultural diversity and 54 countries, he aims to showcase the continent’s music, fashion, arts, and culinary traditions. Ian and his team have already introduced elements from 16 different countries into their menu, including Tunisia and Morocco.

The KIZA team want to take people on a journey through Africa’s diverse culinary landscape and challenge the perception that African food and beverages lag behind other cuisines.

One of the unique selling points of KIZA is that it is the only luxury casual fine dining African restaurant in DIFC. Ian takes pride in the hospitality and diversity of his team, which comprises members from various African countries, as well as other nationalities. They aim to create a welcoming atmosphere where guests feel like they are entering a home and experiencing the warmth of African culture.

Although located in Dubai, Ian emphasizes that they can import ingredients from all over the world, including Africa, to maintain the authenticity of their dishes. They also collaborate closely with beverage companies and suppliers to ensure a genuine African experience.

Ian’s goal is to build an inclusive and diverse community around KIZA. While being a luxury brand, they strive to offer competitive pricing and various experiences accessible to everyone. They want to take people on a journey through Africa’s lands, seas, and hearts, incorporating homestyle cooking and dishes that evoke nostalgia for Africans and introduce others to the continent’s rich culinary heritage.

To further promote African culture, KIZA hosts African networking events and social gatherings, inviting people from diverse backgrounds to come together and experience the beauty of pan-African cuisine. They aim to be a representative of Dubai’s inclusive nature and a platform for showcasing the global Africa.

In addition to their culinary offerings, KIZA presents a range of experiences such as Shisanyama Saturdays, featuring live DJs, MCs, dancers, and performers, and Sophiatown Sundays, a tribute to the glamorous era of African jazz and fashion, accompanied by live performances from The Spice Symphony, an all-female band.

Ian’s passion for food and beverage stems from his love for entertaining people and creating memorable experiences. Over his career, he has gained extensive knowledge in various sectors of the industry, including hotels, casinos, convention centers, and restaurant groups. His aspiration is to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of hospitality professionals and contribute to the growth of the industry.

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