5 Female Chefs Who Are Changing The Game In The South African Culinary Industry
A celebration of women in the culinary industry in honour of national women’s month!
You would think that after being constantly told that women “belong in the kitchen”, the culinary industry would be dominated by women. This is, sadly, not the case with women only making up about 20% of head chefs in the industry and only 10% of executive positions in the food world.
Despite these daunting figures, there are women in the industry who have made it their mission to rise to the top, despite the inherent sexism in the industry. Here are some of the top female chefs changing the game for women in the South African culinary industry.
Chef Angel Mawonga
Chef Angel Mawonga’s love for food started in her early years helping out in the kitchen as a young girl. Preparing food for her family sparked a love and passion for food, inspiring her to pursue a career in the catering and food industry.
Angel went from working as a client service agent for MTN to establishing and owning her own catering company in 2003, and opening her own cooking studio, “Angel Maw Cooking Studio” earlier this year. She describes her cooking classes as “fun and interactive, informal and inspirational”.
In 2022, Angel was invited to form part of the delegation from South Africa to attend the World Chefs Congress in Abu Dhabi in May/June.
Chef Zana Alvarado
A culinary consultant, recipe developer and food social media influencer, Chef Zana Alvarado does it all! Prior to becoming a chef, Alvarado had a successful career in marketing and brand management working on air on both television and radio in Europe. In 2000, Alvarado sustained severe injuries in a car accident, leaving her with barely any mobility in her left hand.
“Many years after, when I chose to change careers from marketing to culinary, many people thought I was making a mistake. How would I fare at culinary school, and in an industry where both working hands are pretty much a necessity, and I can barely use one of mine? Many people discouraged me. It would have been easy to give up, but the more people said I couldn’t, the more determined I became to follow my dreams,” says Alvarado.
Alvarado considered herself to be “differently abled” and has not let this stop her from pursuing her passions. Alvarado is a member of the South African Chefs Association, where she handles the portfolio for women in the culinary industry and was a part of the South African Chefs delegation at the World Chefs Congress in Abu Dhabi.
Alvarado also specialises in Latin American and Meditteranean cuisine and is the co-founder of “Fiesta Latina”, South Africa’s annual Latino food, culture and music festival.
Chef Julia du Toit
Chef Julia du Toit is the head chef at the Beyond restaurant in Constantia, Cape Town. After eight years in the industry, she was selected to represent the restaurant in Lyon, France, working in the Michelin-starred restaurant L’Atelier des Augustins. While there, her menu, dedicated to author Deon Meyer, highlighted diversity in South African cuisine saying that it “draws on flavours from around the world that result in signature combinations.”
When she isn’t blazing the way for South African chefs, du Toit prides herself on her unerring sense of calm and organisation skills.
Chef Elsu Gericke
Chef Elsu Gericke is the Head of Education and Development for the South African Chefs Association.
Having graduated from Prue Leith in 1999, Gericke spent the next 14 years working in various positions in the kitchen, holding a number of executive chef posts including the Cape Milner and Toadbury Hall. Gericke also held the position of Head of Department of Hot Kitchen at Prue Leith Culinary Institute, where her love for culinary education was cemented.
“I love the industry because it is a multifaceted, ever-changing, demanding industry that requires you to continuously learn, adapt, and perfect new skills, it challenges you daily to be the best you can be. It allows you to be an artist, an accountant, an HR manager, a master in maintenance, a teacher, entrepreneur, and scientist all in one, just to name a few. The opportunities are endless and the friendships formed priceless,” says Gericke.
Chef Tumelo Monareng
A graduate of Ga-Rankuwa Hotel School, Chef Tumelo Monareng is the co-founder of P&T Private Chefs, a catering company that brings the experience of fine-dining to the comfort of your own home.
She co-founded the company with Chef Portia Mnguni, and it is a combination of the two young chefs’ passion and experiences in the food and event industries. They pride themselves on their leadership qualities and tenacity, which allowed them to bring the company to where it is today, being an inspiration to the younger generation.
“Women in Hospitality go out and shine. Be the star you are. Let your candle brightens other persons’ candle, generations’ to generations’. Keep going mntase”, says Monareng.