By the time Wonda Grobbelaar was eight years old, she knew that her future lay in the culinary industry and insisted that her mother buy her a chef’s hat and a recipe book. Forty-five years later and Grobbelaar is still into cooking and baking and she still has that recipe book -My Eie Koekboek – to remind her of how far she has come.
Originally from Randburg in Gauteng, Grobbelaar is now based in Ras Al Khaimah, in the United Arab Emirates, where she develops kitchen leadership courses for different universities around the world, writing training manuals for the hospitality industry and training aspiring chefs.
“I have also opened my own educational training centre where I offer online courses to back of house operations employees.
“Part of my research study includes how robotics will affect the mental health of chefs in a food production facility when they form a part of the team,” she says.
Grobbelaar trained as a pastry chef at Capsicum Culinary Studio, choosing the school because its qualifications are recognised overseas and also because she needed to attend evening classes as she had a full-time job.
So how did she get from Randburg to the UAE?
“After winning the Hudson & Knight Baking Masters in 2012, I entered the FHA Culinary Cup in Singapore 2014 where I won a bronze medal for my wedding cake entry.
“That motivated me to look for new opportunities overseas and, in late 2014, I moved to Dubai with two suitcases and just enough money to survive for a few weeks. Luck was on my side however and I got a job with a company that was making gluten-free products.
“This helped me secure a residence visa and in 2015, I started with my MBA at a UK university. My dissertation was in Total Quality Management in Back of House Operations.
“In 2016 I started working as a recipe developer for a local brand and, after seeing the challenges in back of house operations and the deterioration of the well-being of many chefs, I developed a passion for educating chefs – not only in kitchen skills but also creating exceptional leaders in a food production facility.
“In 2019 I started my PhD in “Creating Lean Cultures in Back of House Operations” and hopefully I will graduate in 2022,” she adds.
Where does Grobbelaar see herself in five years’ time?
“Leading change in the development of curriculums for culinary schools worldwide and preparing culinary students for the future of work.
“I would also like to apply the knowledge I gained during the research to improve the well-being of chefs and design leaner cultures that will be easy to implement in food production facilities,” she adds.
Perhaps if she finds the time, Grobbelaar should also consider writing a cookbook for another generation of aspirational eight-year-old foodies!
Wonda Grobbelaar’s Russian Chocolate Salami(Preparation time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 2+ hours)
25g cocoa powder
15g white sugar
100g 70% dark chocolate
200g biscuits (such as Marie biscuits), broken into small pieces
15g icing sugar, for dusting
Place the milk, cocoa powder, sugar and butter in a pot.
Heat to medium and let it simmer until the mixture is reduced by half, taking care not to burn the mixture.
Add the dark chocolate.
Once the chocolate is completely melted, add the biscuits (see chef’s notes below)
Take it of the stove and place it on clingfilm and roll to form a sausage.
Place it in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
Once chilled cut into slices.
Chef’s note: You can also add any of the following to the mixture: walnuts, pistachios and/or dried fruit. When making the chocolate sauce, the butter should be completely melted.
If there is any leftover, store in the fridge for 7-10 days. Can also be stored in the freezer for up to three months.