Contest takes PMB chef to new heights

2017-06-19 13:56
Pietermaritzburg chef Nikita Fikizolo (25) came third at the HTA In-service Apprentice Chef of the Year competition in Johannesburg.

Pietermaritzburg chef Nikita Fikizolo (25) came third at the HTA In-service Apprentice Chef of the Year competition in Johannesburg. (Ian Carbutt)

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A Pietermaritzburg chef did the city proud in the national Apprentice Chef of the Year competition held in Johannesburg recently.

Representing the iLawu Hospitality Group, Nikita Fikizolo (25) came in third place out of nine competitors.

The young chef, who is originally from the Eastern Cape, started working at iLawu Inn on Chief Albert Luthuli Street in February this year.

Fikizolo said her career as a chef was greatly influenced by her father, who is also a chef.

“Growing up, I loved cooking with my dad and he used to always make me try out new recipes.

“He travelled internationally a lot and on many occasions he would come back with foreign ingredients which we would use to experiment.

“I think growing up in that environment instilled the love for food and cooking in me,” she said.

Fikizolo graduated from the Hospitality Trainers and Associates (HTA) School of Culinary Art last year. HTA is an internationally accredited chef school run under the leadership of Stephen Billingham, current president of the South African Chefs Association (Saca).

HTA hosted its In-service Apprentice Chef of the Year competition last month where 20 students who had recently completed their in-service training were selected to compete for the Chef of the Year title. Out of the original 20, nine students made it into the final round where they all competed for the number one spot.

Fikizolo said she learnt a lot from the competition despite it being “challenging and tough”.

“I definitely learnt new things. I was cooking with people who were working for bigger establishments and were more experienced than I am.

“We were given a mystery basket with ingredients that some of us had never used before. We were required to utilise all our ingredients in one meal and that for me was quite challenging,” said Fikizolo.

Fikizolo said even though she did not win the first prize, she feels the competition has given her “a nudge in the right direction”.

“I feel this achievement will help put me on the map. The weight that this achievement holds means one doesn’t need to compile a CV but can just produce this certificate which is evident of one’s work,” said Fikizolo.

The marketing and relations manager at iLawu Hospitality Group Mxolisi Sibeko said the organisation had supported Fikizolo throughout the entire competition.

Sibeko said iLawu had organised all Fikizolo’s travel arrangement and accommodation arrangements and supported her throughout the competition.

“We are very proud of her and hope that this will start a legacy for our company where other staff members will also be encouraged to partake in similar competitions which will expose and benefit us as an organisation.

“As much as Nikita is relatively new at our organisation, we have decided to invest in her and groom her as we have seen so much potential in her. We also plan to invest more in all our young staff members who show such potential,” said Sibeko.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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