In the Kitchen With Chef Henry Abuto of ByWasonga
The smell of sizzling butter and garlic wafts through the air as Henry Abuto floats through the kitchen, juggling pans and utensils, opening cupboards – and leaving them open, a trait inherited from his mother – as he relates his life story and regularly pauses pose for the camera.
It’s a Thursday morning when we meet Abuto in the house of LeeAnn and Joey Turner, friends of Abuto and the owners of BREWED, who kindly let him use his “dream kitchen” for the interview and the photo shoot. With a playlist that jumps dramatically from Ben Platt to Fall Out Boy in the background, Abuto whips up tilapia, green beans, and wild rice – a sneak peek of what he’s got through his catering and event company ByWasonga (Wasonga is Abuto’s middle name).
But ByWasonga isn’t everything Abuto is known for in Fort Worth. As a writer, musician and semi-influencer, Abuto is quickly becoming a recognizable face in the city. Besties with Tony Green, the duo host a podcast entitled “Tony & Henry: On the Same Side”. Abuto was also recently featured in Amphibian Stage’s film “This is My Story,” in which he talked about his experience as a black man in Fort Worth.
However, Abuto’s claim to fame is its cuisine. While ByWasonga’s offerings take inspiration from a variety of cuisines, the menu also has a distinctly African twist – Abuto grew up in Kisumu, Kenya, and some of his earliest memories include fishing in Lake Victoria with his family. “You can’t go to Kenya and escape tilapia,” he says.
Abuto’s family moved to Fort Worth in 1998, where he grew up and later found work in the oil, gas and real estate industries. He started ByWasonga as a side gig in 2016, then dropped everything to watch it full day in September 2019, only to be slowed down when the COVID-19 shutdowns began in March 2020. Even so, ByWasonga still picked up speed thanks to weekly buoyancy – go to mealtimes and brunch residences in places like Tulips where – he makes sure they’re plugged in – people should mark their calendars for a fish roast celebrating June 19th .
But it’s not just his culinary talents that make Abuto’s recipe for success.
“I always say that the best way to get a foothold in anything is to build authentic relationships,” he says. “After that, people will do the work for you.”
When the conversation ends, Abuto has finished a full meal. shares it with his guests; and literally quotes Philippians 2: 1-8 – a verse too long for the number of words in this story, but look it up and you will find the words that sum up Abuto’s personal philosophy.
“How do we live a life of service with humility and gratitude and, at the end of the day, looking back on something greater than ourselves?” he says. “That’s a guiding principle in my life.”
Henry’s Cooking Playlist
“Come back to you” Sara Bareilles
“Get Me Bodied” Beyoncé
“Voice of God” Dante Bowe feat. Steffany Gretzinger and Chandler Moore
“Run” George Strait
“Freedom” Nicki Minaj
“Nothing inside” Machine Gun Kelly feat. Iann Dior
“Pictures of you” Bootstraps
“Lean Back” Capital Music feat. Dion Davis (the full 10-minute YouTube version)
“All too good” Taylor Swift
Samantha Calimbahin is the editor-in-chief of Fort Worth Magazine. When she’s not editing or creating to-do lists for the magazine’s million dollar projects, she’s jamming on her guitar and planning her next trip to a Disney theme park.
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May 3, 2021