YOU may have watched KFC Taste Kitchen - the new cooking reality show hosted by Bonang, with judges Lucia Mthiyane and Lentswe Bhengu. Natasha Gumede (23) from Pietermaritzburg, is one of the few remaining duos. You may also remember her from heated moments with her partner Nandi. With only four episodes to go, the nation is bracing itself for the finale. Echo Editor CANDYCE KRISHNA caught up with Gumede to find out “what’s cooking” in her life. CK: Tell us a bit about yourself.NG: I grew up in Pietermaritzburg in a small area called Eastwood. I studied at Eastwood Primary and completed matric at an all-girl school called Russell High. I am currently completing my degree in linguistics through Unisa. I come from a loving home with both parents and my two younger siblings.CK: Have you always enjoyed cooking?NG: Yes, and I always wanted to make a career out of it. I was a straight A pupil and because of this it was expected I would venture into law or medicine, but my intelligence came with a different kind of passion - literature and food. I remember even switching classes in Grade 10 from accounting to hospitality studies just so I could cook at school twice a week.CK: When did you start cooking?NG: I started cooking at the age of six, but my mother will tell you stories of me at age three being the ‘hostess’ and stealing chocolates and biscuits to serve to anybody who walked through the door. I actually can’t remember a time when I wasn’t cooking, I remember serving pap cakes at 10 years of age and now they are “the thing”. CK: Who inspired you?NG: My biggest source of inspiration is my mother. She always made the most delicious food out of anything. When broccoli was in abundance she’d tempura fry it and make it as a veg side. This is why I am perfect for KFC Taste Kitchen. I understand side dishes more than most. At home it was always a piece of meat and six side dishes to go with it. My mother taught me that skill - she’s amazing.CK: What cooking shows do you watch?NG: Cooking shows I enjoy watching the most are Pioneer Woman, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, Barefoot Contessa, Nigella, my favouriteand Chopped. CK: Who is your favourite celebrity chef, and why?NG: My favourite celebrity chef is definitely Siba Mtongana. She’s a home cook who makes simple food in delicious variants and she’s very adventurous in the kitchen. She makes it possible for aspiring celebrity chefs like me to dream big and see that it’s attainable to reach that far.CK: What dishes do you enjoy cooking, and why?NG: I do not have any favourite dishes. I’m a person who loves to eat everything, all the time, and my palate is as accommodating and adventurous as my greed, so I play around with lots of flavours and textures, but I recreate South African food in the most memorable way. It’s a skill I’m proud of.CK: Have you had formal culinary training? NG: No, I have no culinary training or formal qualifications. I’m a home cook in the most truthful and pure form.CK: What was it like being chosen as a KFC Taste Kitchen contestant?NG: I saw the advert and immediately Googled all the relevant information, and 15 minutes later I had decided on my audition dish. To enter I had to create an authentic South African side dish that would compliment KFC’s original chicken recipe. It had to be creative, delicious and inspirational. I didn’t tell a soul. I silently prayed and waited for the day of the audition. The day before, I got money from my sister and boyfriend, bought the ingredients, my family wasn’t entirely convinced I’d make it, but my gut told me to try it out. I buried that thought and started studying for my mid-year exams. I had forgotten that I’d entered at some point until I got the call. My family started jumping and screaming for joy.CK: What has the experience been like?NG: The experience is absolutely breathtaking. It’s inexplicably satisfying yet nerve-racking. The challenges are tough and some have been fun. I’m blessed to have the most amazing partner and even though my beginning was controversial because I was the only single who decided to swop partners, I received backlash at first from the public, but my new partnership has been accepted and we have the most fun.CK: What has the competition taught you?NG: That passion is as important as patience. In life we tend to look over our shoulder and in other people’s yards to see if their flowers are blooming more beautiful than ours. I am happy to be the youngest person on the show, the other contestants are older than me, [but] it makes me feel wise and on the right path. I’m proud I’m the only person from Pietermatizburg to be selected to represent my city and I’m excited to share this journey with everybody. I want to inspire young girls and this is a start. I’m grateful for the support.