Chef, food stylist and TV per­son­al­ity Zola,34, on fam­ily sup­pers, her great­est achieve­ment, and what she’s serv­ing next…

Essentials (South Africa) - - BACK PAGE -

My par­ents, sib­lings and I used to have din­ner to­gether round the ta­ble when­ever we could. We moved from KZN, where our ex­tended fam­ily lived, to Ge­orge, and I think that be­ing away from ev­ery­one else only made us a lot closer. Although both my par­ents had de­mand­ing jobs – my mother was a teacher and my fa­ther was an en­gi­neer – din­ner time was sa­cred. I’m con­vinced these meals played a big role in us still be­ing close to­day.

I have vivid mem­o­ries of my mother cook­ing. I’d watch as she care­fully chopped onions and mixed spices. She gave me the con­fi­dence and op­por­tu­nity to ex­per­i­ment with food, and she was only too happy to give up her space in the kitchen when I’d found a new cook­book in the li­brary and wanted to try out a recipe or two.

I loved to de­bate at school so I thought study­ing law would be a nat­u­ral fit for me. But two years into my law de­gree I re­alised that I just wasn’t pas­sion­ate about it. I took my dad’s ad­vice to fol­low a ca­reer that ig­nited ex­cite­ment in me and went over­seas to cook in an in­ter­na­tional kitchen. I ended up in a brasserie in Cheshire, Eng­land, where I be­came head of pas­try. When I re­turned to SA I en­rolled for a three-year culi­nary arts de­gree, spe­cialised in food me­dia, and qual­i­fied as a chef.

I never imag­ined my chef ca­reer would land me on TV! When SABC3’s Ex­presso asked me to take my cook­ing on air in 2010, I was hes­i­tant out of pure fear. But I was even­tu­ally per­suaded and I have never looked back! I’m also thrilled to have been part of TheGreat SouthAfricanBakeOff as well as Wed­dingBash­ers – it was amaz­ing to be sur­rounded by so much love and fun and call it work.

I’m proud of get­ting two Gour­mand World Cook­book Awards for my first cook­book, Sim­plyDe­li­cious. Sim­ply Zola, my sec­ond book, was pub­lished ear­lier this year, and each recipe is paired with a per­sonal story about how it be­came part of my food jour­ney.

My dream is to have my own cook­ing show one day. I have a strong love for teach­ing peo­ple about food, and my own show would give me the per­fect plat­form. I want to travel and learn more about other cuisines – there’s so much still to learn and teach and taste… I want to ex­pe­ri­ence it all!

✱ Sim­plyZola ( Pen­guin Ran­dom House) is avail­able at ma­jor book re­tail­ers.

There’s so much to learn, teach & taste – I want to ex­pe­ri­ence it all!

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