In her younger years, Bernice Kariuki was once dismissed from school after the first week for misbehavior. Kenyan native Kariuki, who was born and reared in the Jericho estate neighborhood of Nairobi’s Eastlands, transferred to a remote school after being let go to finish her secondary education.
She was determined to see the world after school and, at the age of 17, she was successful in obtaining a scholarship in Sweden. She spent 18 months there, where she enrolled in a culinary program, but she “didn’t like what they were cooking” so she moved to the UK. Kariuki then spent three years enrolling in a psychology study since her father wanted her to pursue a career in medicine. But after seven years of training, she returned to cooking, her favorite pastime.
Kariuki, who studied culinary arts at Westminster Kingsway College, one of the top culinary and hospitality schools in the UK, is currently succeeding in the hospitality business and recently made news as the first team chef of English Premier League side Arsenal.
The 51-year-old was hired in 2021 after meeting current Chelsea captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a former captain of Arsenal, at a Christmas party when she was a member of the culinary team that provided food for the event. Kariuki remembers preparing Pilau (an East African delicacy) for Aubameyang at the party in an interview with Chams Media. After the meal, they discussed how they can collaborate in the future.
“So there’s one time we went to a Christmas party, and I met Auba and I urged him to consider me for a slot at Arsenal. The conversation bore fruits as later on, he informed me that I could be his personal chef and that’s how I got my job,” said Kariuki.
Her responsibilities as the first team chef at Arsenal include preparing meals for the first team players at the London Colney training facility, with a special focus on creating wholesome menus for the team, not to mention the management group and members of the Arsenal technical bench.
The Kenyan-born chef reportedly puts in roughly 14 hours per day, or 90 hours per week, and typically begins work very early in the morning since Arsenal players have 4 a.m. runs, according to a story by Kenyans.co.ke.
“My shift starts at 3 am where we collect our fish in billingsgate and then we prepare the fish when the kitchen is cold,” Kariuki explained. “We do their shakes because the players arrive on the pitch by 4 am and do their running. Afterward, they have their omelet and some avocado, have a chilling time and begin their sessions at 11 am, so the money they’re paid is worth it.”
According to Nairobi News, Kariuki, who has had a remarkable career in the culinary industry, worked in a number of prestigious hotels in London, including the Dorchester Hotel and the Waldorf Hilton Hotel, before being hired for the position at one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Kariuki is undoubtedly living her goals, having gone from the streets of Jericho to being famous as the first-team private cook for Arsenal.