Passionate about sensory experiences, chef, culinary artist and menu stylist Shabane shares what she loves most
Chef and culinary artist Mantis Shabane on her favourite things
Whether she’s curating the menu of Breezeblock restaurant in Johannesburg or hosting the Junior Chefs’ Fun Day (a monthly event with a cooking workshop and interactive activities for kids), Shabane exudes a great amount of cool in her chef’s jacket.
She was born in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, a place she describes as a little gem with picturesque Victorian architecture, and Shabane’s been cooking for as long as she can remember. However, she first studied journalism and worked in the telecommunications industry before pursuing a culinary career.
‘I was always hosting dinners and enjoying foodrelated activities as a hobby,’ she says. ‘Although I was doing well in my job for a huge motor company, I was extremely unhappy.’ It took her mother reminding her that – throughout everything she’d done in her life – food has always been her happy place for her to quit her corporate gig and pursue a culinary career.
Shabane sees food as a limitless art form with no boundaries. ‘I could be industrial and smoking huge cuts of meats one day and then making delicate, pretty cakes the next,’ she says. One of the things that excites her most is getting glimpses of different people and their first reaction when she places a dish in front of them and they take their first bite. ‘It’s an experience that’s incredibly gratifying.’ Her favourite quote by chef Julia Child afirms this: ‘Cooking is like love – it should be entered into with abandon or not at all’.
(clockwise from top right) Smeg x Dolce & Gabbana fridge; ‘Writers of History’, 2017, by Bambo Sibiya; Gallery MOMO installation view, 2017; Julia Child; tastes of Morocco, Breezeblock.