AFRICA TAKES THE GLOBAL STAGE
While there’s a prolific number of international star chefs making waves in gastronomy, it’s our own local talent bringing their A-game to the big stage.
Nikita Buxton attended the 2018 S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition in Milan to cheer on SA’s very own superstar Vusi Ndlovu, who was named Africa’s best young chef.
Vusi, who grew up on a farm in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, is currently head chef at The Marabi Club in Johannesburg (p. 112). The now 27-year old spent his youth surrounded by cooking. Whether braaing with uncles or in the kitchen baking with his mom, Vusi's future as a chef was inevitable. He didn’t get his experience at a chef or hotel school, though. Instead, he opted for a more hands-on experience with a stint at Greenhouse under Peter Tempelhoff. This led him to the position of chef de partie at Qunu Restaurant before moving on to work under chef David Higgs at Five Hundred Restaurant.
Lucky number seven
The S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 awards, held on 12 and 13 May 2018 in Milan, Italy, saw 21 talented young chefs from all around the world taking the stage to showcase their culinary skills and creativity. Among them was South Africa’s Vusi, who secured his spot in the finals after winning the top spot in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 Africa and Middle East semi-final.
The young chef, who competed under the guidance and mentorship of DW Eleven-13’s Marthinus Ferreira, poured his passion onto the plate and wowed the seven highly respected judges with a signature dish that secured his spot as one of the world’s top seven young chefs. The culinary creation that got him there? Titled Isicupho, which means “trap” in Zulu, the dish celebrated Vusi’s early farm life with five-week aged duck, grain porridge, smoked duck-leg biltong and pumpkin fermented in umqombothi.
The jury consisted of some of the world’s top gastronomy stars – Virgilio Martínez, Margarita Forés, Brett Graham, Annie Féolde, Dominique Crenn, Ana Roš and Paul Pairet. This year they searched for the “truth in the kitchen”.
Dominique Crenn, chef-patron of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, admitted to not having tasted a few of Vusi's ingredients before. “South Africa deserves more of a spotlight on the global culinary stage,” she also said. “The chefs are doing some very exciting things and it needs to be celebrated more.”
Vusi's accolade was a first for a South African young chef: “I am so happy to be one of the top seven young chefs in the world! It’s a first for South Africa and for Africa and it’s incredible to be alongside such amazing chefs!” said Vusi moments after the final results were announced.
The next step
“Milan has opened a lot of doors for me,” says the chef. He’s already got plans to go back for the big title at next year’s S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition. For now, Vusi will continue setting the bar high at The Marabi Club. “The main objective is to be one of the Eat Out 30 nominees next year, and I’ll take it from there…”
“I AM SO HAPPY TO BE ONE OF THE TOP SEVEN YOUNG CHEFS IN THE WORLD! IT’S A FIRST FOR SOUTH AFRICA AND FOR AFRICA AND IT’S INCREDIBLE TO BE ALONGSIDE SUCH AMAZING CHEFS!” VUSI NDLOVU