Vusumuzi Ndlovu: “I have some great minds supporting me on this journey”

We speak to the young chef finalist representing Africa and Middle East on his path towards the Grand Finale.

Chef Vusumuzi Ndlovu from Marabi Jazz Club in Johannesburg was crowned winner in the Africa and Middle East local final with his stand out signature dish ‘Isicupho.

After falling into hospitability fresh from school, a love of cooking soon took over for the 26-year-old chef. 

He has since honed his skills under many well-known chefs, in fine dining establishments across South African cities, including Pretoria, Cape Town and his current landing place of Johannesburg.

While the modest young chef first competed in the inaugural edition of S.Pellegrino Young Chef, he returns in this edition with the determination to do better and a desire to discover Europe in his culinary travels.

As chef Ndlovu perfects his dish and hones his skills under the mentorship of professional mentor chef Marthinus Ferreira we took the opportunity to find out what’s driving him to succeed this time round. 

Here’s what he had to say:

Please describe your signature dish…
The dish was based on a childhood game we played, which involved trapping birds and then grilling them. I created the dish around this theme. I ended up with an aged duck, grains, and some cool variations of pumpkin. 

What made you become a chef?
There’s no romantic story to what made me decide to become a chef. I knew for a fact that I didn't want to pursuit engineering. I needed to have a plan since my mom wouldn't let me sit at home. I approached a hotel and asked if they were hiring, they had a “wanna be” chef program which I jumped at and it worked out pretty well!

Who has influenced you in your career?
I’m lucky in the sense that i have worked with some great talents out there. Without a doubt Peter Tempelhoff and David Higgs have been key in my development as a chef, without their mentorship I don't know where I’d be.  

Kobe Desramaults and Luke Dale Roberts have also been super inspirational, they have shown me how to look at food from different perspectives. 

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years time?
I’m in love with Europe, god willing I’d like to have neo-bistro in Paris or Portugal, that’s the goal!

How are you/will you collaborate with your mentor in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale?
We believe that the dish is where it needs to be, we are just working on refining the ingredients and tightening some elements of the dish in terms of technique. The plan is not to play with it too much.

What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
There is some serious talent in this competition so seeing what guys are doing out there is super exciting at the same time going head to head with these guys is nerve wrecking. 

Why do you think you can win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 title?
That’s a hard question. I think I have made something special, that along with the fact I have some great minds around me supporting me on this journey. There’s no reason I can’t do well in Milan. 

If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
I think I’d be a lawyer or maybe even hosting parties, I don't know really. I’m not even close to decent at anything else. 

What’s your most memorable food experience?
Butternut soup with my cousins on their farm will always be engraved in my mind, it was such a happy time everyone knew we would be eating this soup, no matter how times we had it, the reaction around the table was always the same… bliss 

What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m always up for a party, apart from that, binge watching old movies, playing some records. I’m a simple guy. 

Why did you decide to compete again?
The first time around I feel as though I wasn't focused enough, there wasn't a clear theme to the dish I did in 2015. I was disappointed in the result and really felt I could have done better. I took my time to enter again because I wanted to do a proper job this time around.

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