September 25, 2019

Sindisiwe Nonhlanhla Sibiya

Chef Sindisiwe is 30 years old and was born and raised in Newcastle, in an undeveloped rural area called Blaauwbosch. She grew up under the care and guidance of her grandparents, who by now have passed on as a result of cancer.

“They shaped and motivated my life as they raised me along with my other siblings, they were both very active and good in the kitchen,” says Sindisiwe. “I honestly didn’t know how to cook and never learned how to when I was growing up. The eldest siblings were the ones obligated to cook, and I was one of the youngest.”

“I completed my Matric in 2006, and I remember when we got to grade 10, subject selection was a must. All the girls in class chose to do Home Economics, but I was the only girl who chose to do Woodwork. I didn’t know it, but cooking was waiting for me.”

A Foot in the Door

In 2007, Sindisiwe first arrived in Gauteng to look for work. She stayed with her aunt in Boksburg, and found some work in call centres and the like. She realised that she was interested in Road Traffic and Municipal Police Management, and completed a three year course on the subject, but was unable to find employment in the sector.

She was undeterred, and in early 2012, she saw (by happy accident) an ad in the Star newspaper urging passionate cooks to apply. In her application, she spoke candidly about her grandmother, and the kind of foods she would cook and the different techniques she would use. “I had observed her a lot,” says Sandisiwe. “There was nothing we didn’t eat. We had pigs, cows, chicken, ducks, swans, turkeys, and cows on our plot. We had lentils, beans, corn, tomatoes, chillies, butternut, sweet potatoes and many other vegetables. We also had trees of apricots, berries, peaches, grapes, pomegranate, and granny smith apples. I learned to make apricot jam, berry jam, pickled chilli, and preserved peaches from my grandmother”.

Rising to the Top

When Sandisiwe was asked to interview, she knew that her history would get her through. “I enrolled my certificate with NYCTP under Tsogo Sun Culinary Centre of Excellence, UJ and my practical training was at Southern Sun OR Tambo International Hotel. I passed and graduated with Merit. I then did my Diploma with Fusion Cooking School in Durban, my training at Elangeni and Maharani Hotel, and I passed and graduated with distinction. I then did my Patisserie Diploma at the Protea Edward by Marriott Hotel, I passed and graduated with distinction. Then and there I was employed as Pastry Chef in Protea for a year, before I was hired back at the Elangeni and Maharani Hotel.”

Branching Out On Her Own

Sandisiwe believes that it is the wonderful exposure afforded to her by the NYCTP that she gained the skills that have set her up for a lifetime of success. “With a positive mindset and passion for what I do, every day is a dream come true. Early this year January I started my business called Cindy Vanilla. I do cakes, pastries and desserts. I’ve done birthday cakes, wedding cakes and other cakes for celebrations. With some help from my family, we are building a business. My intention is to be a regular cake, pastry, and dessert supplier to Pick n Pay, Spar supermarkets, coffee shops, events and function organisers and more.

Looking Ahead

“I’ve recently found a place to extend/branch out my kitchen in Kempton Park. I’m looking to ramp up production as my marketing targets malls. I am dedicated to investing my time, even though there are very little resources to work with in terms of equipment.”

Sandisiwe is inspired by and learns from local chefs such as Chef Phumlane Shongwe, the owner of Urban Desserts Masters in Sandton. As well as Chef Liberty Mamombe and Chef Percy Nomlala. “From others we learn!” she says.

Sindisiwe would one day like to open her own culinary school – Cindy Vanilla Culinary Arts School – where she will groom and broaden the knowledge of black young chefs from previously disadvantaged homes and rural areas. “ I want to help them to see that the world is their oyster!”

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