Cooking up a celebrity lifestyle

By LIU XUAN | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-07-01 04:23

Cooking up a celebrity lifestyle

Zola Nene says that Chinese food has provided her with plenty of inspiration. PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Once on track to be a lawyer, TV chef Zola turned her passion for food into a rewarding career

Two years after starting law school, Zola Nene realized it was not the route she wanted to follow. With a passion for food, Nene quit the school and stepped into the kitchen.

A decade later, Nene hosts a daily TV show about food in South Africa and has published her first cookbook,

Simply Delicious, winning her two awards at the Fifth Gourmand International Awards in Yantai, Shandong province.

During her recent visit to China, Nene tried Peking duck, dumplings, hotpot and fresh noodles-dishes she has been eager to sample for a long time.

"I will definitely throw a party featuring dumplings when I get back home," she says.

Chinese food has provided her with plenty of inspiration, and she plans to write a chapter about it in her next cookbook.

"I like to travel and experience food in different countries," she says. "I think as a foodie, you have to travel to broaden your perspective and learn more. I want to learn so that I can create as much as possible."

Nene's main inspiration comes from seasonality. She enjoys going to markets and trying different combinations of ingredients to make something new.

She believes the secret of her success is rather simple — following her passion and love for food.

"My passion for food is inherited within me. Every time I see a new ingredient or have a new food experience, it lights the fire again. And that can happen every day. Even when somebody is calling to ask a question about the best way to chop an onion, I feel excited. I am so in love with food."

However, rather than luck, Nene's success is the result of hard work.

When she realized that being a lawyer was not where her passion lay, Nene decided to become a chef, as she had discovered a love of food at a younger age. She quit law school and found a job in a professional kitchen near Manchester in the United Kingdom. She started out peeling potatoes, gradually being given responsibility for a section of the kitchen and then for pastries.

She returned to South Africa and enrolled as a student specializing in food media after realizing that her passion for being a chef wasn't going to fade away. "And nowhere I am," she says.

Nene is the celebrity chef and food stylist on SABC 3's Expresso Show, cooking live for her TV audience every weekday morning. She has also released her first cookbook, containing dozens of precious recipes she has collected over the years.

"I feel like I am living a foodie's dream," she says.

"If someone had told me six years ago that I'd be where I am today, I never would have believed them. It feels surreal to call myself a published author — and to share my recipes on national TV every day is just unbelievable."

Nene feels her success is not only a personal recognition, but away to promote South African food and showcase the possibilities for people who are in a similar situation to the one she used to be in.

South Africa is a multiethnic society, encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in its variety of foods.

"People don't know what South African food is. I think part of the reason is that it's so difficult to define because we have so many cultures. All sorts of influences make our cuisine hard to define, in the way pizza and pasta do with Italian food," Nene says.

Beijing used to have some South African restaurants, but none survived.

"I think people will wake up and become more interested in South African food. Slowly, the wheels are turning and people around the world are getting more curious about our food. We are on our way, but it's going to take a while longer. We just need more people speaking about our food and more South African chefs to be out there internationally.

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