Almost 3 years ago I had an epiphany…I realised that my real passion and what my heart wanted was to create beautiful food, that was innovative, inspired, resourceful & original whilst keeping my roots in tradition, and simultaneously keeping an eye on the world trends. I have found a way to combine all this in how we express ourselves here at La Cuccina.
This happened late in my life, after being in the corporate world for many years, in London to Joburg to Cape Town – from advertising & design to IT Recruitment, GM, Model Booking & Management. I discovered my real desire for this, when in 2008, I started assisting a brilliant chef on a magnificent farm in Paarl in my spare time and over weekends and that was it, the love affair began…As the saying goes “once you find your passion you will never work another day in your life…” and that is absolutely true.
This is my very heartbeat and it is a privilege to cook for people and watch their expressions of enjoyment & wonder, when you tap into either a memory or a “I have never tasted that before” of a customer, and to receive their joy & gratitude back is a unique and extraordinary experience. There is a bit of madness involved and I have that in spades actually. There is also huge creativity required, you have to free yourself and go straight back into your imagination…and now waking up with recipes in my head after a good night’s sleep has become my norm.
La Cuccina is the perfect match, we line up beautifully, it’s all about the heart, whether it’s yours, mine, Ian’s, Kunjulwa’s or the rest of the team, it comes from our heart, this Little Kitchen of ours.
I started at La Cuccina in 2002. I was trained back then by the Chef on site and that is when, through time, I developed a love for cooking and food. Coming from a humble background there were many things, many ingredients that I had never tasted before and many dishes that I had not experienced before; my experience and taste lived in traditional African dishes. As my knowledge of different foods grew so did my passion, of how certain ingredients were just made to be together, like pears and dates in our Pear & Date Chutney, or the use of herbs to enhance and complement our fish, chicken and meat dishes.
As I continued to work with new ingredients and dishes my fear decreased, and now I love many dishes and types of food that I would never have eaten before! So much so that I now take most of these recipes home and recreate our delicious food there for my family. As a result my three beautiful children will have a far better developed sense of taste than I did, which is very good as the world is becoming smaller. Since Ian has owned la Cuccina what has been developed, for all of us, is a real sense of family and a real sense of team. We are in it together and my dream of growing and owning has now been realized for which I am truly grateful.
My earliest childhood culinary memory was the special moments I shared with my gran and grandpa in East London during the July school holidays. My gran (Poppie) always insisted that I help her in the kitchen, whether we were baking cakes, preparing for Friday day night supper (Shabbas) or putting together a regular lunch with my gramps and brother around the table. My Gramps even closed his business for lunch everyday – imagine if we were still able to do that today!
What was immediately evident is that they absolutely loved the sharing and serving of their food made with love to their family and friends. Their appreciation of great fresh ingredients, our most precious resource time, and the enjoyment of the ritual of the preparation. These special encounters and priceless memories without a doubt shaped my career path and my love of food.
To this day this ethos is manifested in La Cuccina and in me, the essence of which is “never rush a good thing”, “slow down and appreciate what you have (family time) “and “savour the love you put into food”.