Meet these 3 incredible women who are creating magic in the kitchen

Women have always been game changers and their stories of how they got to the top are remarkable.

by: Pumelela Ntsezo | 02 Oct 2017
 

Women's Month is long gone but let us backtrack a bit and put the focus on women once again, this time in the food industry. We can all agree that the overall female presence is still lacking in the kitchen, so we must celebrate those triumphant female chefs, especially when it comes to these three local culinary talents. 

These trailblazers are whizzes in the kitchen and the success of their businesses is testament to this. They are private chefs and restaurant owners and if you are fan-girling like I am already, then grab a cup of tea and read on. You are in for a treat

Tracy Leigh-Genricks is chef and owner at Four & Twenty café in Cape Town.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background ?
I have lived in Cape Town all my life. I grew up by the sea and food has been a celebration in my life for as long as I can remember. After school I completed the Silwood Kitchen Grande Diploma. After 3 years of studying I joined the very small team of lecturers at Silwood Kitchen's Cookery school where I taught the 1st year students their cooking practical lessons. I loved my job for 4 years, then I left to open my restaurant in Chelsea Village. We have been open for almost 5 years and I love my life at the café more and more every day. Food magazines as well as my grandmother’s very simple baking recipes - shortbread and fruit biscuits are my most memorable.

How did your love for cooking develop? 

When I was very young I was inspired by my mother’s handwritten recipe book from her days in her school home economics classes. I began writing my very own recipe book where I copied my mother's exact style of writing, even in the same color pens. In this book I included my very small collection of recipes. I remember the exhilarating feeling when I tasted the very first dish I cooked completely on my own, and it tasted like mom’s cooking and my family enjoyed it! I followed the recipe exactly and it was so rewarding. From there, my cooking became more regular at home, cooking for my family and mastering all my mom’s basic recipes. I loved to bake and I drew a lot of inspiration from paging through food magazines as well as my grandmother’s very simple baking recipes - shortbread and fruit biscuits are my most memorable. 

Tell us about the food you serve and what your favourite ingredients are?
We serve breakfasts and lunches to appeal to almost everyone. The menu is extensive and we aim to accommodate a wide range of dietary needs as well as sticking to our roots which is food made with wholesome, authentic, and excellent quality ingredients. Our dishes are unique to Four & Twenty and we are conscious of changing dishes to keep ourselves (and of course the customers) inspired and excited about the food we serve. We keep very close relationships with our suppliers in order to offer the most seasonal and sustainable produce we can get our hands on. Myself and my fellow chefs are always thinking of something new! We always love showing off our gorgeous cakes and pastries on offer from our pastry counter. Everything is made here at the café in small batches - espresso custard filled doughnuts, lemon poppy seed madeleines, caramel cheesecake, ‘shutupyourface’ sandwich, jasmine cupcakes, sweet and savory scones served with homemade relishes as well as gluten/dairy free options for those who need a sweet fix! These are just a few of the delicious cakes we have on offer!

What are your thoughts on South Africa’s culinary scene at the moment?
Great! We have such an interesting mix of high quality options available. There are so many food-crazy people living in and visiting Cape Town. My Fiancé (and Chef) James Gaag and I go out a few times a week and can never get through our list of new places to go. We have done a lot of traveling in the past few years and South Africa is right up there in serving some of the best food I have ever eaten, world-wide. 

What has been the biggest challenge in your business journey so far?
I have 35 staff on my payroll. Enough said?

What is your recipe for success? 
It starts with confidence in oneself as well as confidence in the product you are selling, a firm ‘hands-on’ approach and the willingness to adapt to meet the desires and needs of the consumer. And a few things to keep in mind….. be kind, work hard, stay humble, smile often, stay loyal, keep honest, travel when possible, never stop learning, always be thankful. 

You're stranded on a desert island, what five foods would you want with you? What would you make? 
Lemons, sugar, water, ice cubes - when life gives you Lemons! Would gin be considered a food?!

What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
Victorinox serrated vegetable knife!

What ingredients should every home have in the cupboard/refrigerator? 
Vanilla seeds, butter, chorizo, Bulgarian yoghurt, Parmesan cheese and excellent South African wine! 

If I could invest in only five things for my kitchen (meaning, spend more than I normally would), what should I buy as a home cook? 
A complete set of Mauviel Copper pots and pans, a thermomix, a KitchenAid, a chinois, and a Smeg oven.

What's your favorite newly discovered ingredient?
Symmetry botanical tonics - there are 3 flavoured tonic concentrates - citrus, floral and spice tonic.

What has been your worst kitchen disaster? 
Gas shortage and load shedding…at the same time!



Kim Napo is a private chef and owner at
Gourmet Moods

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background 
I come from a communications background. For over 15 years I worked in the PR industry for PR agencies as a Communication Strategist and in government, SARS specifically, as a Communication Specialist. My culinary journey started rather late when in 2013 I decided to go to culinary college to train as a chef.

How did your love for cooking develop?
My mother is a great cook, she had these amazing recipe books and at an early age I was just compelled to recreate those recipes, even though I had never heard of most of the ingredients mentioned in those recipes, and had no idea what words like braise and sauté meant. I was lucky that my mother let me play in her kitchen and encouraged my culinary escapades. I grew up thinking every new ingredient my mother bought was bought for my use and every kitchen gadget bought was mine. There are gadgets in my mother’s kitchen, which up to now she still doesn’t know how to use.

Tell us about the food you serve and what your favourite ingredients are?
I serve really simple food made with fresh ingredients but always with a twist or a surprise element – food that does not hide behind heavy sauces. I want my clients to taste very element and every ingredient and understand why those ingredients were put together. My favourite ingredients of all time are olive oil, lemon and fresh coriander but now and again a new ingredient will feature for a while only to be replaced later – right now that ingredient is olives and before that it was sundried tomatoes.

What are your thoughts on South Africa’s culinary scene at the moment?
Our diverse cultures and the fact that we have the best and freshest ingredients at our fingertips paired with some amazing chefs who are fearlessly always pushing the envelope, make the South African culinary scene very exciting. I believe that this is just the beginning of great things to come. 

What has been the biggest challenge on your business journey so far?
I think the biggest challenge has been learning to create a balance between business and home. As a chef, the lines between home and business can get easily blurred and it’s very easy to take “work” home because you cannot really run away from food, it’s there all the time everywhere. 

What is your recipe for success?
My recipe for success is hard-work, never losing sight of your vision, staying focused on your goals and learning from yours and others’ mistakes regardless of the industries they are in because certain principles run across.

You're stranded on a desert island, what 5 foods would you want with you? What would you make?
I would want rice, spinach, tomatoes, eggs, feta and olive oil. I would make a frittata the one day and a quiche the next and the day after that I could make scrambled eggs with feta. . . I could make something different for a while.

What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
I would say my knives. Preparation is the most important step in cooking and a good knife makes prep a joy.

What ingredients should every home have in the cupboard/refrigerator?
A bottle of good quality olive oil, sundried tomatoes, eggs, fresh or dried herbs and feta – feta makes everything taste great.

If I can invest in only five things for my kitchen (meaning, spend more than I normally would), what should I buy as a home cook? 
A good chef knife, a pestle and mortar (to make pestos and grind your own spices), wooden spoons, heavy-based pots and pans (these are great for heat distribution and even cooking) and a quality wooden chopping board.

What's your favorite newly discovered ingredient
My favourite newly discovered ingredient is dukkah which is an Egyptian condiment made from spices and nuts. I sprinkle it on yoghurt to make dips, I use it as a crust on salmon and steaks, I sprinkle it on salads, I use it on scrambled eggs. . . I use it everywhere.

What has been your worst kitchen disaster?
I was baking a chocolate cake and the recipe called for two cake pans of a certain size. I wasn’t up to doing two cake pans so I decided to use one large one. In the middle of baking I checked on how the cake was doing, like one normally does and disaster. . . the cake had risen so high and there was batter flowing out of the cake like lava onto the oven floor. It was a disaster! Now I had to clean the pan and the oven. I should have just used two pans.


Luyanda Mafanya is a chef and owner at Cooking with Luyanda


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background 
My name is Luyanda Mafanya but I go by Cookingwithluyanda. I’m a 23 year old food blogger and private chef from Johannesburg. I’ve been doing this for about 12 months now and it all stemmed from me following my passion for food. 

How did your love for cooking develop? 
I come from a food loving family and my gran was truly an amazing cook, she was actually a home economics teacher so she would teach students how to cook, so everyone at home knew how to cook by default and I literally took her love and passion for food and made it my own. I am here because of my gran. RIP to her. 

Tell us about the food you serve and what your favourite ingredients are?
I love serving big portionS, family-style dishes where people can dish up and just enjoy everything. I love using oxtail, lamb, big whole line fish, prawns, whole chickens… The list is endless. I just enjoy ingredients that can make a big hearty and filling buffet 

What are your thoughts on South Africa’s culinary scene at the moment? 
It’s still growing. The industry also needs to introduce new faces and names, right now it’s the same people getting the spotlight and not enough new comers. I have also found food brands now use celebrities instead of keeping it authentic by using actual cooks, bloggers and chefs.

What has been the biggest challenge on your business journey so far?
Running everything from my small kitchen, I can’t wait to get a space where I can run the business.

What is your recipe for success?
Posting good quality recipes consistently and serving clients good quality food whenever I get the chance to cook in their homes.

You're stranded on a desert island, what five foods would you want with you? What would you make? 
Lamb, onion, oil rice, mixed farm style veggies. I would make a lamb potjie with rice! I’m obsessed with lamb.

What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
The big Hart pot! It really comes through for you when you are trying tto make large amounts of food for clients

What ingredients should every home have in the cupboard/refrigerator?
Fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme,coriander, parsely, basil). Good quality olive oil, salt and pepper grinders, a variety of spices, eggs, garlic.  

If I can invest in only five things for my kitchen (meaning, spend more than I normally would), what should I buy as a home cook?
Food processor, a good quality cookware set, a good knife set, measuring cups and a pair of tongs (I can’t live without mine).

What's your favorite newly discovered ingredient

Green beans! I use them in everything... salads, casseroles... literally everything 

What has been your worst kitchen disaster? 
A client asked me to make a lemon meringue tart and when I added the lemon curd it all spilt out the tart. This is why I stick to cooking and not baking.


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