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.

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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.

Hum­ble be­gin­nings

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

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