Being the youngest of the S.PELLEGRINO YOUNG CHEF 2018 candidates, we were intrigued by Vusi Ndlovu’s love for cooking and wanted to find out more.
Only 25 years old, Vusi Ndlovu grew up in Pretoria the oldest of three children in his family. Online editor, Hlulani Masingi encouraged Ndlovu to open up a little more about his cooking ambition.
HM: When did you fall in love with food and cooking?
VN: I think it was around the time I used to visit my cousins at the farm they lived on when I was about eight or nine years old. It was always a good time and they used to bake a lot of scones and biscuits, so I always got involved.
HM: Who was your role model growing up and how did they influence your love of food?
VN: Definitely my mom! She always had time for everyone and was a big fan of family gatherings. I’d watch her set up and make sure everything was hundreds before the guests arrived. That instilled a strong sense of getting things done properly and showed me the power of a good meal.
HM: Tell us a little about your mentorship by Peter Templehoof at the Greenhouse restaurant.
VN: Peter Tempelhoff is a legend and I can honestly say he taught me how to cook. He was a strong believer in standards and I learnt a lot just by watching him work. The way he moved around the kitchen and approached food was just magic.
HM: How did you perfect your cooking skills? Did you get professional training?
VN: People don’t believe me when I tell them I didn’t go to cooking school or get any professional training. I just made it a point to work for the best chefs that would let me learn from them. My skills are far from perfect, but repetition is key to improving them.
HM: Where are you currently working?
VN: Five Hundred at The Saxon Hotel was one of my best working experiences, but I’m now a sous chef at the Marabi Jazz Club in Maboneng.
HM: How does it feel to be one of the 10 semi-finalists for S.PELLEGRINO YOUNG CHEF 2018 Africa-Middle East?
VN: This is my second time as a finalist in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Awards and I’m in a good space. I’ve been working closely with Candice Philip, who has been instrumental in this whole process.
HM: What other well-known professional chefs do you admire?
VN: There are three: Kobe Desramaults is the most genuine person out there and a proper rock star chef who opened my eyes to a world I never knew; Joshua Skenes is brutal and demands perfection, but he really knows how to cook; Bertand Grébaut is one of the coolest guys out there and his food is so refined, it’s unreal!
HM: What is your advice to anyone interested in becoming a chef?
VN: Take your time; don’t chase money or fame. Stick it out and if you have potential, the doors will open for you.
HM: What is your favourite dish and why?
VN: Rice and mince! It’s just yummy! True story!
HM: What are you doing when you’re not in the kitchen?
VN: I hardly have any free time, but when I’m not cooking I spend quality time with the special person in my life.
Images: Amplicon Group