If you think that a chef’s life is full of cooking day in and day out, you may be surprised to learn what a typical day for a chef is actually like. Although a person who holds the job title of “cook” probably does spend most of each day simply cooking, a chef’s life involves much more than the culinary arts. Depending on where he works, a chef may quite easily be a part-time personnel manager, businessman, public relations specialist and special events coordinator. We’ve had an in depth gabfest with Kabelo Kalebe, a chef originally from Mahikeng in the North West Province; who now works full time in Dubai.
ON THE TRAINING…
@Houseonmag: Why did you decide to become a chef?
@SuperKabza: I had a deep passion and love for trying out new things with food in and out of the kitchen.
@Houseonmag: What other back-of-the-house positions have you previously held?
@SuperKabza: In my training back in school, I used to help the pot wash on slow days and used it to cover minutes – I haven’t held any other position other than being a chef.
@Houseonmag: What did you like best about the educational experience?
@SuperKabza: I loved that I was exposed to so many ingredients and cooking methods that I wasn’t aware of before.
@Houseonmag: What did you like the least?
@SuperKabza: I loathe cooking buffet, I felt it taught me nothing but making a lot of food and cutting costs.
@Houseonmag: Where and how were you trained?
@SuperKabza: I started my training in Potchefstroom, at Vuselela College for a year. I then quit and moved to Mahikeng Institute of Hotel Management, most of the training was practical and only 10% of being in the class.
ON THE JOB…
@Houseonmag: What is your management style?
@SuperKabza: The engaging style, more democratic – I believe in building commitment and consensus among employees, everyone has input. I believe in motivating staff with rewards, it makes the work environment a better place for the staff and that yields positive results.
@Houseonmag: Are you a team player? Do you easily assume a leadership role?
@SuperKabza: Yes absolutely, I have no place or section in the Kitchen, where I’m needed I cook or help —whether its prep, cooking or talking to a guest, I’m happy to do it. I don’t assume leadership, only hard work pays where I work and I give credit where it’s due.
@Houseonmag: Tell us about a difficult work situation you’ve encountered and how you handled it?
@SuperKabza: There’s plenty! We always have this particular guest who doesn’t like the smell of cigars, so after many fights – I denied the bar staff to sell cigars when he has a booking — just for a few hours.
ON KABZA’S INSPIRATION…
@Houseonmag: Is there a chef you admire most? Tell us who it is and why?
@SuperKabza: Geez! That’s a hard one, there’s plenty. Justin Benello, from South Africa — he keeps it simple yet his food is packed with flavour.
@Houseonmag: What is your favorite cuisine and how many different types of cuisine are you capable of producing?
@SuperKabza: I would say Spanish, Cuban, Korean, South African and a bit of Thai. However, Food is food – and I love all cuisines but I’m biased when it comes to South African food, it hits home and its unlike what the rest of the world has. We don’t share ingredients with any other parts of the world which makes us one of the best.
ON FOOD & WINE…
@Houseonmag: What is your favorite cuisine to cook?
@SuperKabza: If Street Food was officially recognized, I would say that – because one does what he wants, but my African is still the best e.g. The Braai…
@Houseonmag: Tell us about pairing food and wine…
@SuperKabza: I believe its like playing a game of chess, your ingredients have to hit the test buds but infuse perfectly with the taste of the selected wine.
@Houseonmag: What is your favorite wine?
@SuperKabza: The 2014 Vina Ventisquero Reserva Carmenere – also known as the soul of the Andes…
@Houseonmag: What is an example of a spring time menu you would prepare for us at House On?
@SuperKabza: It would be a light, fresh and not heavy, eat clean menu because you are what you eat.
- I’d prepare a summer inspired salad with fresh vegetables and fresh fruits, nuts and other raw ingredients.
- I’d use fresh herbs e.g. lemongrass parsley, Rosemary, Basil.
ON FOOD TRENDS…
@Houseonmag: What do you do to stay current on new trends?
@SuperKabza: Research, I look at what’s trending in the top 60 Restaurants around the world, and right now, what’s trending is Rustic plating “a natural look” and Gastronomy – (The study of the relationship between food and culture).
@Houseonmag: How do you test the quality of your ingredients?
@SuperKabza: The colour, look, smell and I always make sure, I taste the product while still raw…
@Houseonmag: When are you happiest at work?
@SuperKabza: All day everyday! It’s what I love doing… Pushing my passion – is the best thing I ever did!
@Houseonmag: Any advice for young and upcoming Chef’s?
@SuperKabza: Would like to say that, hard work always pays and that its not always about the fame and money but just doing what you love. ‘Compliments to the chef’ is still the best reward ever…
Collaborators Note: Chef Kabelo’s passion and relentless hard work paid off when he was chosen to be part of the winning team for Asia DE Cuba and won the prestigious Young Chef of the Year award in 2015, six months after his move to Dubai. To keep up with Kabza’s latest dishes, follow him on Social Media: