- What started off as a story about a Spanish man who fell in love with Tanzania turned out to be the start of a major business franchise that has revolutionized the industry in the country.
What started off as a story about a Spanish man who fell in love with Tanzania turned out to be the start of a major chain of restaurants that has revolutionised the industry in the country.
Carlos Bastos Mella, famously known as “Kalito”, is the legend behind the brands Samaki Samaki, Kuku Kuku, and Wavuvi Kempu under the company Karlito’s Way.
Carlos’ story, which made him one of the gurus in the entertainment industry, is quite interesting. He met his then-girlfriend through a friend in Spain who was married to a Tanzanian man, and it was through this that he was invited to visit Tanzania, a country that he fell in love with.
“I met Khalifa, a Tanzanian man who was married to a Spanish woman in Seville in Southern Spain. We instantly clicked and became friends. In 2002, he invited me to Tanzania. When I first came, I found myself falling in love with Tanzania, I came back again in 2003,’’ said Carlos.
In his own words he realised he was not happy with the European lifestyle because, as he noted, it felt like “they were living robots.”
He fell in love with Tanzania because of the freedom and happiness he felt with the carefree lifestyle of the people.
“From my point of view, Europeans control a little bit too much; we live like robots. People just live to work and produce; I never liked that for myself,’’ he explains.
Immediately after he fell in love with Tanzania and seeing how it aligned with his vision of a lifestyle, he made a bold move in 2004 to relocate to Tanzania and live with his friend, Khalifa.
They came up with a business idea, but things didn’t go well as planned, so he found himself on the street and had to look for a job to sustain himself.
“I didn’t come with a lot of money, so me and Khalifa came with a project idea, and things went south. I found myself on the streets, so I started looking for a life and a job, and then I was hired as a barman at Chui Bay Restaurant, where I worked three days a week; unfortunately, after three months, the restaurant was closed,” he recalls.
As life can take unexpected turns, Carlos decided to not give up. In 2005, he went to Nungwi, Zanzibar, where he was hired as a dive master.
“I worked as a dive master in Zanzibar for two years, but all that time I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life; all I knew was that I liked to entertain people, bring them to the water, and prepare parties for them,’’ he added.
In 2007, he decided to come back to Dar es Salaam and start over. He did not have a home to stay, so he started living in guest houses, one of which was at Msasani.
His experience in Zanzibar gave him the idea of doing a bar business on a container; that’s where he met a friend of his, Jangir, with whom he shared the idea, but his friend had a whole different mindset.
“I was having the idea of doing something to entertain people, and my first idea was to have a bar placed in a container, but Jangir convinced me that instead of a bar, we should sell fish, and I agreed.”
They started looking for a place for the business; at that time Mlimani City had just opened. Jangir was told he could not put a container there but they could rent him a place, and that’s how Samaki Samaki was born in 2007.
“Having a business idea is the first thing, but making it come true is the second part, so I didn’t have enough money to start the business. I remember how my mother, then-girlfriend, and friends loaned me money from different places to give me capital to start,” he adds.
If you have been to Samaki Samaki, you will notice that on the menu you will never find something like “Chips Kuku,” but instead you will find names like James Bond, Musoma, Iringa, and Tanga.
The walls are decorated with pictures of all the famous people who have touched the entertainment, politics, and sports fields, people like Tupac Shakur and many others.
Have you wondered about the story behind it? Carlos recounts his inspiration for the names behind his menu and the notary figure celebrated.
“I believe we make the revolution; we have put all those people who changed the world in one way or another; that’s why you will find people like Bob Marley and Tupac. We see ourselves like them in Tanzania; we have been able to change the food and beverage and entertainment markets in one way or another,” he says.
He adds: I believe we inspired many. As you can see, now we have competitions, but we are the ones who started playing with DJs and bringing dances to the restaurants, and now many are doing the same, so I believe we inspired others as well.”
Despite his success with Samaki Samaki, Carlos had another humble beginning. Most of you might be familiar with the “Mbalamwezi Beach.”
This was a time when he was trying to expand his business, but the place was not commercially successful, and, in the end, he decided to close. He admitted that it was a business failure because he did not know what Tanzanians liked.
“In 2008, I opened a place called Mbalamwezi Beach, but business was not good. I had not read what Tanzanians liked, and I designed it very elegantly. I opened it because it was my dream to have a beach bar,” Carlos explained.
After struggling left and right to fulfill his dreams, Carlos did not give up. He opened various businesses in the City Centre, Mikocheni, and Mbezi; even though they did not do well, they gave birth to the idea of Kuku Kuku after knowing what Tanzanians liked in terms of food.
He looked at how he could improve them and sell them to people, and in 2020, he opened the Kuku Kuku restaurant in Mlimani City.
“I saw that there is a gap in making Tanzanians happy with eating chicken because it is already a well-known delicacy.”
“I came up with the idea of creating a good place for them with good music, even though it is not very successful because of location,” he said.
Carlos can be noted as a man who did not let challenges stop him from realizing his ever-growing dreams. He used his challenges as a springboard to fulfill his dreams without forgetting his first dream of owning a more successful beach bar.
It is with this passion that he started another business, Wavuvi Kempu. Wavuvi Kempu has come to explain the life of fishermen, their history, and their reality.
This is why when you arrive, you will see different notable names such as Bibi Chau, a elderly woman he met while doing his research in Kilwa.
He liked the recipes that she was making and selling to the fishermen, so he took the recipe and improved it, hence the lady’s name.
“My recipes are from real people. I met Bibi Chau. I took her recipe, and it is on the menu here with her name,” he explained.
This place is designed with a beautiful aesthetic to attract and educate its customers.
Have you ever entered a place and found antique oil lamps sitting on top to be used as lighting lamps, then you sit on chairs with the design of a boat, and if you look around, you see the names of the streets that you see when you are in the fishermen’s area, such as huts for vendors, pure spirituality.
The ambiance gives you the feel of where fishermen live; everything has an attraction and makes you feel that you are in a special place, this is the feel of ‘Wavuvi Kempu’.
Despite his success, Carlos faced several challenges, such as being summoned to Basata.
“We were called by Basata for various offenses, all to be warned. Our goal was to entertain customers. We obey the law, and we will continue to obey it.”
Carlos’ passion for what he does, his perseverance against challenges, and his desire to make a difference in his community are qualities that we can all aspire to.
Born in Spain as the only child in his family, Carlos is a father of four children. His tributes, go-getter spirits, and revolution in the Tanzanian food and bar industries continue to inspire others.
Source: The Citizen