Chef Mfanufikile Dhlamini – from Ruimsig in Roodepoort – graduated from the Rosebank campus of the Capsicum Culinary Studio last year and currently runs his own business and operates as a private chef.

Dhlamini, who says that he started this new career at the ripe old age of 37, is now the proud owner of FAM Café Private Chefs & Co which also includes an online bakery and supplier of freshly baked goods.

During lockdown, Dhlamini is offering a range of ready-made meals as well as baked items. You can also check out his Facebook page for a number of recipes for meals to make at home. We spoke to Dhlamini about his culinary journey:

How has your culinary journey been so far?
It’s been amazing, and opened my eyes to many prospects, possibilities and opportunities in the culinary world. I have since learned that as a chef, I should not limit myself to food preparation and cooking, but I can also venture into other aspects of the food business or industry ranging from food production, food photography and styling amongst others, which is something that never crossed my mind when I first started out. It has transformed me from being just a chef into being an entrepreneur.

What was your journey through Capsicum Culinary Studio like?
Capsicum was tough and my age was something of a challenge as I had to balance family life, work and school. I studied part-time but I was determined to make a career change. There is very little room to play if you are serious about attaining your qualifications but what has helped me through is the fact that I am very passionate about food, about learning and discovering new techniques, ideas and creating new dishes.

How did Capsicum ready you for industry?
Part of our course included industry placements where we were deployed or assigned to various high-level restaurant and hotels, and that gave us the real picture and experience of what the industry after graduation had in-store for us. The practicals in the class gave us the basic knowledge and skill that we were able to apply during industry placements.

Is there a chef you admire the most? Who and why?
There are so many: Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver, Wolfgang Puck, Marco Pierre White, and locally David Higgs, Chef Benny Masekwameng and private chef Neill Anthony.

What is your favourite cuisine?
I fell in love with French cuisine as that was the basis of our study, but soon thereafter I discovered my passion for Asian cuisine because of its simplicity – but still packed with flavour. As a South African, I cannot leave out our traditional cuisine which, for me, presents a unique appeal to the world that has become too westernized. If more chefs can explore more of our cuisine, they’d find very interesting and unique flavours that we can export to the world.

How many different types of cuisine are you capable of producing?
Since completing my studies I have ventured into many cuisines besides French and Asian. I can also do Italian, Mexican, Portuguese and, of course, a range of African cuisine.

What do you do to stay current on new trends?
I do research on different cooking styles and technique, many of which are promoted in various media and technological platforms like YouTube. I also assist or collaborate with different chefs from different restaurants and hotels so that I stay relevant with knowledge and skills in cooking different foods using different styles.

Describe some of the most interesting industry trends.
Plant-based cuisine and fresh produce is for me by far the most interesting trend in ensuring that we tap into nature for food production as far as possible. Cooking with cannabis (marijuana) is also a trend that has caught my attention.
Food technology and alternative healthy eating trends are also taking over because a lot of people have become health conscious and they want such consciousness to be evident in their food. Hence the rise of vegan and vegetarian dish trends that are filled with flavour and a lot of nutrients which our body needs.

What would be your advice to students who are currently studying towards becoming a chef?
Before anything else, you have to passionate about food and cooking. Because the industry is tough, very tough and, if anything, the only thing that would make you survive and emerge as one of the best chefs in this industry would be your passion. Without passion, you will see no purpose or relevance. Some people quit along the way because they soon realise how tough the industry is. There’s no mercy and no sympathy! You get into that kitchen and do what has to be done, the right way and consistently over time.