Thandazani finds her true passion
Creating mouthwatering food dishes is a gift which found Thandazani Nosipho Zulu (21) by chance.
When she started selling muffins at the university campus to pay for rent and groceries, many laughed and made jokes about her hustle.
At the time this young woman from the rural heart of Kwalamula in the KwaMthethwa Reserve had just arrived at university, facing the struggles of being raised by a single mother and grandmother. Facing the harsh reality of adulthood with only R300 in her pocket from her grandmother, she had to find a way to survive. With no culinary skills or training, she used the money to buy ingredients to bake her first tray muffins. Determined to make it a success, she stood at campus corners and corridors, something frowned upon by her fellow students. ‘I made R1 000 from that sale and was able to pay for my rent at the commune and food items. I couldn’t believe the idea had worked,’ she said.
Through all the laughter and insults, this brave young woman continued with her business and started selling her baked goods to police officers working at a nearby station.
No one could have imagined selling muffins would soon become a lucrative business and she believes she will one day be named among the top emerging chefs in the province.
‘Within a year I could see people loved my food. I then introduced some other items on the menu.
‘I soon organised myself a mobile trolley to be able to move around, at the same time juggling the demands of my studies.
‘It was difficult. I stayed at the commune with other students and sometimes had to wait for all of them to finish cooking before I could use the stove. ‘I spent nights just baking, but soon my hard work paid off when the institution started placing orders for their functions.
‘As the business grew, I still had to monitor it and ensure I reached my target for rent and food,’ she said.
‘Food by the gift’
This third year business administration student at the University of KZN in Pietermaritzburg not only turned her struggle into success, she is also living testimony that hard work pays.
She soon introduced the concept Food by the gift, inviting food lovers to share meals while engaging in conversation.
The concept has since grown into one of the biggest food initiatives in KZN.
‘This gave me a platform to tap into bigger businesses.
‘I love food and being in a kitchen. I have a passion for creating something new and always want to put my own twist on traditional foods.
‘I always say the food industry found me because it took me from being broke at university to realise what my real passion was.
‘I appreciate my grandmother’s support and some of the kitchen skills she taught me when I was a young girl, even though back then I never liked cooking,’ she jokingly said.
Although Thandazani’s food business has taken off, she believes it’s just the beginning.
She wants to eventually open her own restaurant back home and introduce her own food style, as well as writing a book with her own recipes.
‘I am inspired by many things and want to do more. I want to continue the tradition of creating opportunities for food and conversation. Perhaps one day I’ll have a guesthouse where people can come and enjoy good food.’
Thandazani said she would use her business administration qualification to grow herself and the business, as well as create a platform for aspiring chefs.