‘Grand Warrior’ Rolf Schmidt & Renown Restaurateur Will be Missed

Renowned Restaurateur Rolf Schmidt dies at 69 By Margaretta wa Gacheru Published in Concierge Magazine in late 2012 Rolf Rainer Schmidt wasn’t just a five-star chef and restaurateur who started some of the most memorable eateries in Kenya, including The Red Bull, The Horseman, Rolf’s Place and the first African Heritage Restaurant which he opened shortly after arriving in Kenya from Tanzania in 1973. Before he died of cancer October 1st at aged 69 in his Kitengela home, the German-born former Judo black belt, polo player,white hunter and weightlifter lived out his dream to emulate his hero, Ernest Hemingway whose book, Green Hills of Africa had inspired him to come to Africa initially. Rising from poverty and the early loss of his parents, Schmidt overcame many obstacles in life, including the first bout of cancer which he beat in the early 1990s. Trained to be a chef in Upper Bavaria, his early working years took him to Switzerland, Sweden and the States before he joined the kitchen crew of a Swedish luxury liner that took all over the world. In 1966 he dropped off in Southern Africa where he became an executive chef in major hotels everywhere from Zimbabwe and Pakistan to Tanzania and finally Kenya, where he became a Kenyan citizen in 1978. According to his second wife Asmahan, Schmidt was always up for a challenge, always competitive, which partly explains why at age 50, he took up weight lifting after conquering his cancer and became a world champion power lifter in the Masters ‘over 50’ category. Shortly thereafter, he was awarded the “Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya” by President Daniel arap Moi. Upon moving to Kitengela where he built Rolf’s Placein the early 1990s, Schmidt who had been captain of the Kenya Judo Club in the 1970s, launched the Kitengela Polo Club which he headed for several years. Working on numerous movie sets, Schmidt’s catering services often brought him into contact with film celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Angelina Jolie andOmar Shariff. It also led to his taking up acting parts on several of the same sets, which he enjoyed immensely. In 2011, Schmidt released his autobiography, No Need to Lie, published by Moran Publishers. He is survived by five children, Franzista by his German wife Eva, and four by his Kenyan wife Asmahan, namely Rayana, Adam, Safiya-Lena and Aliya. At his passing on October 1sthe was with his Kenyan partner Sarah who had been with him for several years.

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