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Kenyan rugby star blows up showcasing his culinary prowess

Earlier in the week, we had a conversation with Dennis Ombachi, a Kenyan rugby 7s olympian, whose culinary skills have recently blown up on social media especially TikTok and Instagram Reels.

(Photo credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

It all started with a soul search…

In an era where anyone can be famous and where those short 15 seconds of fame can be fashioned in an even shorter period of time, an unlikely hero has emerged. His star is shining brighter and longer; a former rugby player now full-time chef.

Dennis Ombachi, known on social media as The Roaming Chef, is a former Kenyan professional rugby player. He became a regular starter for the illustrious Kenya 7s team at the age of 19 and went on to play for over a decade.

The 31-year-old Olympian has represented The Shujaas on the global stage multiple times. He is well remembered for scoring the try against Zimbabwe sending Kenya through to the Rio 2016 Olympics.

(Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

Sidelined by injuries

During his career, he suffered multiple injuries.  ‘Omba’ as he commonly is referred to as by close friends and local fans, went under the knife five times. He has been open about how each surgery would grind down and diminish his dynamism, speed and olympian dexterity.

He painfully speaks of his fifth surgery after a potentially career-ending broken leg. This sidelined him for six months.

“Of course, you work to come back better and stronger, but there is no denying that there’s a part of you that’s left in the theatre after a surgery, at least for me!”

Advocating for men’s mental health

Rugby was the only language Dennis spoke; it was all he knew. As a result, his injuries had an untold impact on him. They took a toll on his mental health. Slowly depriving a cheerful man of doing the only thing he loved.

Dennis suffered under the crushing weight of being forced to sit at home time and time again, with each injury taking longer to heal than the last. During this time, he struggled with depression.  It was then that he took a sabbatical from actively being involved in rugby.

After seeking psychiatric help, during this time he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In a well-detailed Twitter thread, Ombachi opened up about his struggles to his 100,000 followers.

This is where his soul searching began.

“I had accomplished everything,” he reflects seemingly taken aback.

“I had represented Kenya in the Olympics, The Commonwealth Games, the World Cup and World Series countless of legs.

“Sports is a good channel to help relieve your emotions, but once it becomes a job, it has mental health implications as any other job.”

Ombachi has since been working hard to raise awareness. He has been particularly vocal in advocating for young men to speak out and seek help.

“Men are expected to always be strong and toughen up as the pillar of the society,” says the olympian.

“If seeking help makes you weak, so be it!” he retorts, in reference to a culture where speaking up is often perceived as weakness at best.  A taboo at worst.

Social media – the perfect distraction

“Initially, I used social media as a channel to tell a different narrative of myself,” he says, with his face lighting up.

Ombachi would occasionally give his life updates on his blog, which he has since shut down. Social media was his tool to show people a different side of himself.  The father of two would share his walks in nature trails, carpentry works and showcase his cooking skills.

This slowly garnered him an audience.

The Roaming Chef

The self-taught chef picked up cooking as a hobby during his travels to different countries for rugby tournaments. Ombachi hails Japan and Hong Kong among his favourite destinations, praising the diversity in culture, food and the people.


Pineaple sweet chilli wings alingside asian style coleslaw #fyp #tiktokfood #food #yummy #delicious #wings #chickenwings #coleslaw #foodgasm

♬ original sound – dennis ombachi


“The cooking was a let off for me, it grounded and distracted me to block out all other noises,” he says with a smile.

During his recovery, Ombachi enjoyed  cooking for family and friends. He would be hired to cook for people in their homes and later at events.

During the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent curfew, he decided to start sharing his cooking on social media. Dennis has a visibly exuberant personality and near-palpable charisma so it didn’t take long for Kenyans to take note of the star’s online presence.

Ombachi has now amassed close to half a million followers on Instagram and Facebook combined.  His colourful videos that feature him preparing a mélange of East African, South Asian, East Asian and Central American cuisines.

To encourage his followers to get involved, Omba leaves the recipes to his dishes in the comment section of his posts. He also engages with new set of fans from all over the world on a regular basis, in the form of replies, retweets, reposts and  TikTok duets. This  gives the multi-faceted megastar a down-to-earth feel.

The now TikTok star, derives his inspiration from world renowned super-chef, Gordon Ramsay. He plans to follow in his hero’s footsteps and set up a Nairobi based masterclass to teach his culinary skills before the end of the year.

“Cooking is an art, and everyone does this differently,” he says excitedly. “What could be better than sharing that knowledge with everyone since we’re now a global village!”