Chef swaps dishing up for digging in heat of the Maasai Mara

Sean Austin, right, with team mate Owain Jones in Africa.
Sean Austin, right, with team mate Owain Jones in Africa.

The chef at a Woburn pub swapped the heat of his kitchen for another kind of heat when he spent a week in Kenya helping to plant a forest in the Maasai Mara Reserve.

Sean Austin, head chef of The Black Horse in Bedford Street, visited the country as part of a 12-strong team sent by his company Peach to help conserve this fragile part of Africa.

He travelled to Kenya on January 25 and drove out to the Maasai Mara, reaching the remote Enonkishu Conservancy on the northern boundary of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.

He and his team mates planted 20,000 2-inch trees, together with a fence around them to protect the conservancy and help create what’s been termed the ‘Last Line of Defence’ for an area of land under growing threat.

As well as planting a forest in a week, Sean also went to a cattle market to buy a cow as part of a project to promote sustainable farming and slept under the stars, hiking and spending time exploring this amazingly beautiful and unspoilt region.

Sean said: “Going to Kenya was a completely mind-blowing experience and although I love my job, part of me feels I’d rather be there than cooking in my kitchen right now. It gave me the chance to see for myself things I’d only ever heard about and left a big impression on me.

“I came away with a real sense of the fragility of this part of the world and how we really need to do something now to protect it.

“What we did manage to do was to plant three fields of trees, which in time will grow into a forest, and a protective fence, to help shore up the area.

“We also presented a giant cheque to the leaders of the Enonkishu Conservancy in Maasai Mara to help with their work, money we had raised at home from sponsored challenges and by donating 25p from every Caesar salad we sell in the pub.

“It was fantastic to hear from the Maasai people the difference they are trying to make in their way of life and why they are working with the conservancy on projects that protect their land and their heritage.”

Sean added: “It was fantastic to do some once-in-a-lifetime things, like going on a game drive to watch the rhinos, hippos and lions, not as plentiful as they once were, we’re told, but majestic none the less. We even slept out in the bush despite there being lions there – it didn’t stop me from getting some shut-eye, though. I’d go back there in an instant.”

Anyone who wants to support Sean, the Last Line of Defence and the Enonkishu Conservancy can make a donation on