From the stage to the kitchen!
Lwazi’s red pepper cake wins her a R90,000 bursary.
A red pepper cake has led 36-year-old Rivonia resident Nolwazi (Lwazi) Ydrestal to change careers. The professional singer swaps the recording studio for the kitchen when she starts at Capsicum Culinary Studio’s Rosebank campus this month and sets off on her new culinary journey.
Ydrestal is one of five regional winners of the Capsicum Chef Talent Scout competition. Her prize? A one-year bursary at the country’s leading chefs’ school worth R90 000. To enter the competition, contestants had to create and submit a dish – sweet or savoury – using a red capsicum pepper or any other red ingredient.
Lwazi took the brief to heart and created a delicious and clever red pepper cake! We got the aspiring chef to answer some questions as well as share her fabulous winning recipe.
Tell us a bit about your background and what you do?
I am a singer by choice and a musician by education. I have been singing professionally for 12 years, which has afforded me the opportunity to travel and see different countries.
Where and when did your passion for food start?
It started when I went to visit Khuluza (Gogo) for the school holidays. She was a housewife who kept a vegetable garden and would send me to pick carrots or whatever she needed. I was hooked. I learnt how to cook by watching her; sometimes she would give me a big bowl of butter and sugar to whisk by hand. This was for butter biscuits or jam squares. Yummy!
What is your best food memory?
Khuluza and I would go and harvest mealies from her garden, then grind them on a stone and make isinkwa sombila (mealie bread) with imifino yezintanga (pumpkin leaves). These are best eaten with your hands. The smell of mealies is the greatest smell on earth, cooked or grilled. It’s the smell of home.
Why did you decide to enter the competition?
I saw an opportunity to finally go to culinary school. I had tried before but failed to come up with the funds. I thought why not try? I had nothing to lose and everything gain.
How did you come up with your winning recipe and what is it?
The rules said make use of a red pepper or red ingredient so I thought let me try and make a red pepper cake using bling nonpareils (sprinkles) inside so that they pour out as the cake is cut. I like the visual appeal. I had a real red pepper in front of me as a reference the whole time I was shaping the cake.
How did you feel when you were told you were a winner?
I was elated. I couldn’t scream because I was in a theatre but I danced for joy. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity. It is a game-changer for me.
Have you always been a fan of Capsicum and why?
I first saw the Durban campus a few years ago. It was the cooking school I always wanted to attend but things didn’t initially work out.
What does winning a bursary mean to you?
Winning fulfils a lifelong dream of learning more about food and working in a professional kitchen. I am an avid traveller and this opportunity allows me to go anywhere in the world and work. From the stage to the kitchen.
What are you now looking most forward to?
I get to know more about the art of food and how to hold a knife! Believe it or not the way chefs hold a knife freaks me out. I am ready to be moulded into whatever shape.
Where do you see this taking you?
Everywhere. No limits. I would like to work as a professional chef. There are so many possibilities. Chef, food stylist, photographer, the list is endless…
What made you want to study to become chef?
Watching people enjoy my food gives me so much pleasure. I thought why not get a certification for this and possibly work with the best while learning more and making magic happen in the kitchen. Food is endless … just like music.
How do you believe SA chefs and restaurants compare to those internationally?
The difference is in the ingredients but I don’t think the artistry or interest in food is any different. A perfect example is Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen who holds a Michelin star for his work done overseas. He is on the same path as the biggest names in the culinary world.
Who has been your greatest mentor and why?
My Khuluza and my mom. They both have a gift of not using too much spice to preserve the authentic taste of whatever food they are cooking.
What three famous chefs do you follow and why?
The late Mam Dora Sithole who showed that African food should be celebrated; Nigella Lawson, because she makes cooking and eating look so sexy; Taiwanese Michelin star chef Andre Chiang who is known for his “Octo-philosophy” of eight elements which make up his dishes.
What three items would we always find in your pantry?
Legumes, maize meal and flour.
What is your favourite thing to cook?
Chicken biryani or sauteed cabbage with bell peppers and uphuthu.
The Red Capsicum Cake
50ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ tsp pink food colouring
1½ cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
250g white margarine
4 cups icing sugar
Red and green fondant
Bling nonpareils, sprinkle or hundreds and thousands
Red food colouring
Set oven at 150°C
Whisk eggs and sugar until pale yellow. Add oil, vanilla essence and food colouring and mix well. Sift the dry ingredients and add gently to the egg/sugar mixture. Make sure there are no lumps but do not over mix. Pour mixture into a 15cm cake tin.
Place in oven and bake for 30-45min
Let the cake cool.
Mix icing sugar and white margarine to make the buttercream.
Take a sharp knife and start shaping your cooled cake into a red pepper. Cut a hole in the centre to add the nonpareils.
Take buttercream and coat the red pepper shaped cake. Put it in the fridge to chill.
While you wait, roll out the fondants. Cover the cake with the red fondant and shape the green fondant into a stalk and stick it into the red pepper.
In a small dish, pour a few drops of the red colouring. Take a brush and glisten the pepper.