Mandela chef, confidant spills the beans
BRETT Ladds has led a much storied life; a life during which he has made many friends and rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s most famous personalities.
This, of course, is no surprise, considering he was in the employ of none other than the Presidential Guest House in Pretoria during the time of Nelson Mandela.
There is a wide smile on his face at the very mention of Madiba and, by his own admission, Ladds could spend hours regaling me with stories from his time working for the former president. One such tale is of the first instance he found himself alone in a room with Madiba. He recollects: “I was casually walking around the house under the impression that I was alone. I heard a voice that asked ‘Who’s there?’
“I stopped dead in my tracks. I half considered taking off my shoes and sneaking back to where I came from. I sheepishly walked into the room and there he was, the most famous man on the planet. I was so nervous, but his charisma and natural charm soon set me at ease.”
Ladds would go on to build a special relationship with Mandela, one he said would also shape his interactions with his own employees when he later made his foray into business. The camaraderie is quite evident when you see him working in his kitchen. “We are family, we spend 12 to 14 hours of our day together so it’s important that we enjoy being around each other,” he says.
Other than being a chef, Ladds has added the title of “author” to his repertoire. His book, entitled Mandela – My Journey, is out, and he laments: “I made so many friends there. I learnt so much, the bodyguards, the staff and everybody. That’s why I wrote my book, (as) you never get to hear about the people behind the scenes and how much they gave up and contributed. I just want to bring them to the forefront and acknowledge them.”
Ladds is hosting Mandela Day celebrations today at his restaurant, Chefs@Five Sixty Six, in Serene Street, Garsfontein. There will be activities including a Pretoria News breakfast, a kids’ cupcake design station, live music and a 3D Mandela show. Ladds will also read an excerpt from his book. All proceeds will go to charity.
CHARITY DAY: Phillip Humo and Brett Ladds outside Ladds’s restaurant Chefs@Five Sixty Six