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