Champions finalist combines love of food and people to change the world

Chef and 2019 Champions Finalist, Ms Zandi Makhoba

Ms Zandile Makhoba is a chef, social entrepreneur, and advocate for community upliftment. Driven by a passion for food and a love of people, she launched her own corporate social investment project aimed at giving young people and women the skills to apply sustainable solutions to poverty and, importantly, knowledge about healthy eating.

Called ‘From the Garden to the Table’, her project was selected as part of the 2019 Champions Programme, a community development initiative that is the product of a partnership between UKZN’s Graduate School of Business & Leadership and KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA).

‘The Champions Programme was an amazing journey,’ she said. ‘It is a holistic approach to mentorship which focuses on building you as an individual and how you can sustain yourself, or your company, before reaching out to assist others. This is done using different approaches and innovations.”

Makhoba said the programme has given her a ‘better approach’ to impacting communities and sustaining herself.

‘It has expanded my network, from my fellow Champions to the staff, and opened up endless new opportunities. I treasure the professional advisors which I would not have been able to afford had it not been for the programme, and the mentorship which really assisted me to consolidate my experiences, and my vision for the future.’

Makhoba said the ‘Garden to Table’ project is doing well. Initially, she was simply teaching community members how to cook vegetables to retain their nutrients with an emphasis on the importance of eating healthy foods. Now, she is also focusing on helping people to sustain themselves economically through value-added services like selling their produce in the community.

Among the highlights of Makhoba’s professional life include the opportunity to conduct live cooking demonstrations at the National Artisan and Career Festival, and to participate in a food and culture programme in Japan, where she cooked African cuisine and learnt about Japanese food.

She is currently serving as the national president for the Junior Chamber International (JCI) South Africa, a global community of active young citizens in over 120 countries with a mission to create developmental opportunities that empower young people to create positive change in their communities.

Her company, Zandi The Chef International, was established in 2018, with services ranging from private chef services to food demonstrations; menu costing and planning; training and development; brand influencing; and specialised catering services. She also launched the Zandi The Chef Skills Academy offering training and cooking classes.

Makhoba recently participated in the Virtual Durban July where she collaborated with Eyadini Lounge on a menu that represented African cuisine, in keeping with this year’s Durban July theme: butterflies.

‘It was a great experience, working with different industry giants and being able to deliver such great tasty dishes. This not only benefited their customers but the staff were also empowered with new skills focused on creativity and how to produce nutritious meals.’

Although the culinary industry has taken a knock during the COVID-19 pandemic, Makhoba refuses to let circumstances get in the way of her daily bread. She reached out to existing clients and offered cooking classes virtually and created online content to promote healthy eating during the coronavirus outbreak. She is also participating as a guest speaker in a series of webinars, advocating healthy eating.

‘Like any business, we lost money but we also decided to rise above the obstacles and strive to strengthen our brand through collaborations such as that with the Durban July. We are proud to announce our newest collaboration with the national Department of Sports, Arts and Culture in terms of which  Zandi The Chef will lead an online culinary show,’ said Makhoba.

When we asked Chef Zandi if she had a message of inspiration for the young women of South Africa, she said: “I hope to inspire someone to be the best they can be. Always work on your vision, embrace every mile in your journey no matter how small it is … eventually it will lead to the greatest heights. Perseverance is the key to success. Own your dream, always put your best foot forward, show up whenever you are asked to  — you don’t know who is watching. Offer your skills where possible to build people around you. Lastly, learn. Get a mentor. Standing on the shoulders of a giant gives you a better view of life generally.’

Written By

Lungile Ngubelanga

Lungile Ngubelanga

Lungile Ngubelanga is a Journalist and Assistant Public Relations Officer at UKZN’s College of Law and Management Studies, former Publications Officer and Assistant Project Coordinator at the Centre for Creative Arts. She graduated in 2015 from UKZN with a Bachelor’s Degree in Media and Cultural Studies.

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