She’s vivacious, can cook like a champion, and she is the Spekko Chef of the Month.
Chef Zola Nene is most well-known as the SABC 3 Expresso Show Chef and stylist. But this talented woman is doing so much more. Amongst others, she has been cooking at the Spekko Rice Celebrity Chef Challenges in Cape Town; she is the Chef Patron of the Capsicum Culinary Studio; she is a graduate from the legendary Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch; she is in much demand as an MC, she loves wine tasting and her signature dish is a white chocolate cake with marshmallow icing.
Her man is Chef Reuben – not that one – but Chef Reuben Boya from The Cape Grace.
Here is what we asked Chef Zola:
Where are you from?
I am from Durban, but grew up in George where my mum Bongikile is a teacher and my dad Michael is Operations Manager at Petro SA. I am the middle child of 3, my sister is a qualified Sports scientist and my brother an engineer. I now live in Green Point in Cape Town.
How did you get involved in cooking?
Cooked my first dish, a toasted cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top when I was 8. I studied to be a lawyer, but after 2 years took a gap year in England where I worked at a brasserie in Cheshire for 2 years.
Back home I enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch for a 3 year course.
Over this time, I worked with legendary chefs such as Margot Janse of Le Quartier Francais and Chris Erasmus of Foliage. I specialized in Food media in my third year of studies and worked at Top Billing magazine as a food assistant for six months.
After a stint working as catering manager in Johannesburg, Expresso offered me the job as food stylist in October 2010.
What dish do you cook for a family celebration?
Definitely steamed mealie bread, I make it with fresh mealies off the cob.
Which restaurants do you admire most?
The Chef’s Warehouse and The Pot Luck Club – both in Cape Town.
How would you spoil your mother on Mother’s Day?
With a pampering pedicure.
How do you spend your leisure time?
Visiting markets, wine tasting, cooking and travelling.
Which chef do you admire most?
Chef Chris Erasmus, owner of Foliage in Franschhoek.
Chef Zola can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/zolanenechef and on Twitter @zola_nene