The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WHAT do African music superstars DJ Maphorisa, Tresor and Mampi have to do with cooking? The answer to that question is nothing, yet when Zambia recently held its annual Zambian Food Festival (Zamfest), these were the names that rocked the stage in that country’s capital, Lusaka.
Far away from the stage, attending to the core business of the fest was Zimbabwean chef Zinzile Masiye, who was invited as one of those rare guests to rub shoulders with the main attraction at the food extravaganza that day, South African celebrity chef Lazy Makoti.
As the only one chosen to represent her country Chef Zinzi, a professional chef currently working for Africa Albida Tourisms Victoria, revelled in the occasion as it was one of those few times when a woman was a star in the kitchen.
Despite that some still look at cooking as an essential skill that women should possess, this is not necessarily the case in professional set-ups where the skills of women are not as appreciated.
“It’s not a walk in the park being a female black chef. We are at the bottom of the food chain. I haven’t yet met a female executive chef in Zimbabwe. A pretty face is considered a distraction in a still very sexist industry so as a woman you have to work twice as hard as your male colleagues to get any gratitude or recognition,” she told Sunday Life in an interview.
The lack of representation, the chef who has an HND in Culinary Arts and worked at such quality establishments as The Victoria Falls hotel, Elephant Hills Resort and Holiday Inn said, had resulted in a lot of women avoiding the kitchen.
“So you’ll find women shying away from professional hotel kitchens and doing better on social media, catering for weddings or baking cakes. Hopefully more female chefs are willing to stick it out and change the narrative in the next few years,” she said.
Being one of the rare breed of women who had decided to take the bull by the horns and try to forge a successful career as one of the country’s few female chefs, Chef Zinzie used the Zamfest as an opportunity to further her goals.
“The opportunity to network with and work with different chefs from the region is not only enlightening but it’s a great exchange of culture through food,” she said.
Her passion for food, she said, was ignited at a young age.
“My culinary journey started at a very young age. Firstly my mum always experimented with recipes. Her food has always been great so this is what initially piqued my interest. I started baking for my mum’s office friends when I was in high school and knew then all I wanted to be was a chef,” she said.
Chefs in modern times have used various media platforms to spread their names and skills, with British culinary experts like Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver becoming multi-million dollar brands that are followed widely on social media. Chef Zinzi is also eager not to be left behind in this lucrative technological rush.
“I run a food blog called Eatoutvicfalls where I review menu items in restaurants in and around Victoria Falls, it’s very interesting because it’s a guests (my) honest opinion about a restaurants food quality, service, price range, everything another potential guest can expect from a restaurant.
I also share my personal recipes and pictures of food I’ve cooked. I used to host a radio cooking show called Simple Home Cooking on the local radio station Breeze FM and write a weekly publication on Urban Culxure where I’d give details on my recipes, share shopping tips, advise home cooks on budget meals, hosting friends or family, meal prep and how to use leftovers for other meals, generally giving listeners and readers advice on how to survive financially and practically in their kitchens,” she said.