Young Imbali chef to test culinary skills in America

2016-12-07 06:01
PHOTO: supplied Samkelo Mbatha

PHOTO: supplied Samkelo Mbatha

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SAMKELO Mbatha from Imbali Unit 13 has cooked his way to South Carolina, U.S., this year, a culinary endeavour that might provide a life-altering opportunity.

The 26-year-old graduate of the International Hotel School left South Africa last month and will spend the next six months working as a line chef at Colleton River Club.

Mbatha said he decided to study culinary art after failing to secure employment after completing his Bachelor­ of Social Science Degree at UKZN.

“After I completed my degree and was in the midst of searching for a job when my father raised the question of what I thought about doing more about my cooking capabilities.

“He suggested I make something out of it so I registered the following year at the International­ Hotel School.”

He said from a young age he has always been passionate about cooking.

“I always loved to cook from an early age when my grandmother taught me how to make rice and basic curry. I think my interest grew from then.

“I also started watching cooking shows and was always keen to try out new recipes.

“It all came naturally to me, but being from an educated family I shied away from my talent with the fear that my family would not approve, which is why I opted for another degree.”

Mbatha said much to his suprise his family actually prompted him to pursue a career as a chef.

“I got this job through Work Away, an agency that recruits people all over the world for seasonal work at over 20 country clubs in America.

“I was accompanying a friend for his orientation with the agency and decided to apply as well.

“I didn’t think I would get the job because the requirements were that as a chef you needed at least two years experience. We went through a vigorous and long process of interviews and I was shocked when I got the call to say I got the job.”

This year Mbatha showcased his culinary skills among well-known celebrity­ chef and radio personality Jenny­ Morris at the Good Food and Wine Show and at The Mercury Festival of Fine Living in May.

He has also worked for KB Burger House in Hillcrest and Makaranga Garden Lodge in Kloof.

“There have been many highlights - I have also done private jobs for Unilever in Johannesburg and other private catering jobs and I was a finalist in the Koo cooking competition.”

Mbatha and two of his friends from the International Hotel School have started a private catering company.

“We do gourmet catering for private events, my business partners are continuing with the business while I’m out of the country.

“They also have full-time jobs, but in future once the business is well established­, we plan to focus more on it.”

He said although he will be in South Carolina for six months, he is exploring the opportunity of applying for another summer job in New York once his six months are complete.

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