Whereas it might sound cliché, it can only be emphasised that behind every successful man there is a woman.
This is the story of Shantilal Patel aka Sam Patel whose pillar in life was and remains Elizabeth Taylor.
On a sunny Saturday when we settle down for an interview, she makes two requests: “take notes instead of recordings and no photographs because there is nothing special to capture about me”.
Taylor is a modest woman, the lady who has always remained in the shadow of Sam Patel, now the deceased proprietor of the Faze 2 and Faze 3 restaurants.
Along the way, our conversation gets deep but it cannot be complete without Patel, the man with whom Taylor shared love, business insights and friendship, until he died in 2015.
Throughout our conversation, memories come alive and with them, tears form in the corner of Taylor’s eyes before she reaches for tissue to wipe them away.
“Sam was an incredible person. He was so full of life and everyone who interacted with him learnt something from him. He loved the limelight but I preferred being in the background,” she recounts, giving me a straight face that reveals her misty eyes.
Her lips split into a sad smile as she takes a moment to fight back tears amid silence that is only broken by one of her employees – Juma. He has brought some papers for her to sign.
She excuses herself to reach for her glasses, before getting into another tale regarding her employees.
“He [Juma] had worked with Sam [Patel] for six years at the time I met him in 1989,” she says as Juma makes his way out of meeting area at Faze 2 Restaurant in Kampala.
My imagination quickly linger before I make out that Juma had, until Patel’s death worked with him since 1983.
“Juma is not alone,” Taylor tells me. She calls out Cissy Nassolo, one of the chefs in the continental kitchen, who had been working with Patel since 1984.
“I was replacing my sister as a helper at his home,” the 51-year-old says, smiling over her wrinkled face before adding: “He taught me how to prepare Indian dishes.”
Apart from Juma and Nassolo, there is Jackson Ojiambo, who was hired in 2004 as Patel’s manager. Whereas Ojiambo is relatively new, has lived to be part of the story that set up Faze 2 and Faze 3, where he is a manger.
“I got hired as Patel’s manager and later on continued to work at Faze 2 and Faze 3,” he says.
Such is the story of Patel, whose relationship with workers perhaps explains why he was able to establish successful restaurants and eateries dating back to the 1980s.
Taylor role in shaping Faze restaurants
But beyond Patel was the shadow of Taylor who made sure that she recruited the right people.
“I always want to allow people to prove themselves,” she says, highlighting that she has always asked people who seek jobs from the restaurants to prepare any meal that they are comfortable with.
“I observe them through out the whole process and I am keen on the personal presentation,” she says.
But beyond recruiting the right people, Taylor doesn’t take anything for granted and will not hesitate to try out a good dish from another place.
“I will make sure that my chefs taste it and we share about it,” she says.
She is also particular on building structures that empower managers and allows them to work with little or no supervision.
Her insistence on quality and hard work might be a trait she picked up early in life having started managing a family cottage business back in the UK at 16 years.
Taylor, who met Patel in 1989 through a mutual friend, is a nurse by training, whose fondest memory of Patel back in the days is “the loud guy who wore a hat”.
The two, to put it perfectly, have warmed up Uganda’s restaurant business serving some of the best and memorable meals around Kampala.