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Chef Linda Mnikathi has been trailblazing the culinary industry across the country with his fresh and innovative ideas that tap into different South African cultures.
His is a craft that conjures unique and mind-blowing experiences, as he takes his kitchen all over the country to indulge his culinary whims.
The private chef spoke to Cape Town Etc and he made some startling revelations.
“I’m based in Durban but my culinary work takes me everywhere. I travel all over the country for functions such as weddings, funerals, corporate events and so on. I sometimes also do public gigs as well as house calls.”
Mnikitha said he hires a team of chefs, scullery maids and waiters wherever he goes, and their number depends on the amount of work at hand.
He said he is a versatile chef, as he can prepare any dish, depending on what his clients want. But he enjoys doing gourmet food.
“I’m a Versatile Chef but I love working with five-start food,” he said.
During the national lockdown last year, the hospitality industry took a knock. However, despite the challenges, Mnikathi strived to rise above the circumstances and devised ways to excel.
He has become a food editor, who also offers cooking classes.
“With COVID-19, functions are no longer as many as they used to be. I only get a few events here and there. So I have had to be very innovative in my work. I conduct cooking classes. These I do anywhere where I’m invited. People always want to learn new ideas, particularly during the winter season that we are approaching. People want to know, for example, what they can do with vegetables and so on,” he said.
And how has been the response from the people?
“The response has been incredible. People are always eager to learn. I sometimes get 30 to 40 people coming to my classes and I charge per head,” said Mnikathi.
He said he hires a culinary kitchen furnished with adequate equipment to enable him to conduct the classes effectively.
Mnikathi also said he is busy writing a cook book, which should be a culinary delight for many, as he will showcase some of the creations coming from his kitchen.
But how did his career come to life?
“Well, to tell you the truth, when I was doing my matric, I was geared up to becoming a chattered accountant. But then my dad was a cook and I had grown up looking at him cook those delicious and yummy cuisines. So I somewhat developed my passion from there.
“After school, I watched and read a lot about cooking. It was then that I decided to pursue a Diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking. I also then studied for a certificate in hospitality management,” he said.
Mnikathi, who has been recognised by GQ magazine as one of the 2021 chefs to watch, said he has been a chef for 15 years, having also worked in restaurants and hotels.
“I worked for restaurants and hotels before I got retrenched. After retrenchment, there was a whole year before I figured out what my next journey was going to be.
“Retrenchment was sort of a blessing in disguise because it made me realise my capabilities. Now it’s five years since I started my own business, he said.
Over the years, Mnikathi, who is currently studying for a certificate in Events Management at Cape Town University, has worked with brands such as Luck Star, Koo, Moet, Jimmy’s Sushi and many others, where he collaborates with them to come up with scrumptious dishes.
“Working with these brands has really humbled me. I feel blessed. They collaborate with me by sending me their products to showcase to the people what they can do with them. This whole idea worked perfectly particularly during the national lockdown, where I went live mostly on Facebook and Twitter, showing people how they could use some of the products from these brands,” he said.
His journey so far, has seen him rubbing shoulders with some of South Africa’s celebrated chefs that include Siba Mtongana, Zola Nene and Lorna Maseko.
“For me, these are talented South African chefs. I look up to them, as a way of embracing local talent,” said Mnikathi.
So what’s the dream going forward?
“Well, there is no biggest dream than to write my cook book and finish. I also want to become an internationally recognised chef, running my own restaurant and establishing a successful culinary school,” he said.
And he has some advice for upcoming chefs: “Be consistent, be focused and stay purpose driven. Keep you eyes focused on successful people and you will make it.”