This week food editor Carmen Niehaus celebrates her 25th anniversary at the helm of matters culinary at YOU! A great cook in her own right, Carmen is of course also the go-to person in the office when we’re stuck for menu ideas for a special occasion or someone suddenly needs to rustle up a yummy supper. We asked her a few questions:
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on a food shoot?
Of course the stylist shouldn’t be fiddling with the photographer’s equipment but one day, after I’d already worked out which handles to turn to change the camera angle, I peeped through the lens and did it again. It was late afternoon, everyone was, to put it mildly, somewhat irritable. I turned the handle and the next thing – kaboom! – the camera landed lens first in the plate of food. Of course I’d turned the wrong handle! The plates were shattered, tablecloth spoilt, food everywhere and the photographer wasn’t amused. Thankfully the camera survived without a scratch – but we did get home much later!
What are big crises to you in the kitchen?
When I’ve burnt the food and don’t have ingredients to start over. A soufflé that’s collapsed and ice cream that’s melted are a challenge to shoot, and at an outdoors photoshoot pesky flies that won’t get away from the food remain a huge crisis and can create embarrassment.
What’s the strangest recipe you’ve encountered as food editor?
They’re countless! But people who want to sprinkle potato crisps over their food and make a milk tart with Cremora still strike me as strange.
What part of your work do you enjoy most?
The creative side – developing recipes, going on shoots and interacting with readers.
And the least?
Are there some foods you don’t eat?
For the life of me I can’t get through a big steak.
Which utensil/appliance is indispensable to you in the kitchen?
A very sharp knife and these days definitely also a food processer.
Which is ingredient is worth its weight in gold to you?
Lemon and yoghurt.
If someone were to poke their nose in the fridge at your house, what would they find?
Not much! I tend to shop daily like the Europeans. But definitely natural yoghurt, chermoula, ginger pickle and a few jars of interesting pasta flavourings.
If you have to eat one dish every day for the rest of the year, what would that be?
A great salad with a variety of flavours and textures. And of course nice homemade bread glammed up with interesting ingredients – to me that stays food fit for kings!
What Carmen’s colleagues say:
Izelle Venter, editor-in-chief of YOU, Huisgenoot and Drum:
Carmen is a legend, not only in culinary circles, but especially among our readers. When we get to festivals Carmen is the one they swarm around. It’s a privilege to have her on our team: she does her job with total commitment and enthusiasm. Imagine – South Africa’s food bowls would’ve been so boring without her! Also much more unhealthy and unimaginative. Thanks, Carmen.
Linda Pietersen, editor of YOU:
YOU wouldn’t be YOU without Carmen’s recipes. We love her, our readers love her. She’s made our food pages one of the pillars of our title and many readers turn to these pages first, knowing the recipes will be easy, cost effective and absolutely delicious.
Liezel Joubert, lifestyle editor of YOU, Huisgenoot and Drum:
Carmen’s intuitive touch with food isn’t something you can buy. A quick glance at the recipe and she can tell you what’s missing, if the baking time is too long, whether the ingredients and method match and – most importantly – how it will taste!
Carmen’s vast experience, which we frequently dip into, is precious to the entire lifestyle team. What impresses me most is that after 25 years in the job she’s still passionate about each food article, she approves and tests every recipe in detail and is keen to experiment with new flavour combinations, ingredients and food fads.
David Briers, senior photographer at YOU, Huisgenoot and Drum:
Carmen and I get on so well people often ask us at shoots whether we’re married! Our rapport is what makes the pictures on our food pages work. Carmen knows exactly what she wants and is excellent at presenting food in a way our readers love. What I’ve learnt from her is that if something needs to be done, it needs to be done!
? Shané Barnard