FOUR Zimbabwean students from the Culinary Art Academy shined at the Hospitality All African People’s Imbizo (HAAPI) in Midrand, South Africa after scooping top awards.
HAAPI is an ultimate African heritage festival of celebrating food, indigenous food, music, film, culture and fashion.
The four Natalie Kapembeza, Tanyaradzwa Kujenga, Tariro Chiwenga and Rhoda Nyamadzawo represented Zimbabwe in a festival that saw more than 10 countries participating in seven cooking categories.
The categories included the Chefs in Green Cooking, Nelson Mandela Challenge, Women in Culinary, Mystery Junior Basket, Student Skills Challenge, Barbeque Challenge and Jolof Rice Challenge.
Kapembeza scooped the first prize in the Women in Culinary category and another first prize of the Best Man Course in the same category. Kujenga bagged a first prize in the Student Skills Challenge category together with Chiwenga and Kapembeza where they worked as a team.
Nyamadzawo won the third prize in the Mystery Junior Basket category and Chefs in Green Cooking category. The four who could not hide their joy for lifting the Zimbabwean flag high said they were happy to participate at HAPPI. Kapembeza said her participation was an eye opener as it gave her the exposure through competing with professional chefs from other countries.
“It was a tough challenge because we had a mystery junior basket where you do not know what you will be going to cook until you see the ingredients. So as a chef you have to plan and do things as you cook. What mattered was flavour so I managed to bring out the flavour which made me scoop the first price,” she said.
Kujenga said it was fun to compete with professional chefs from other countries and gain experience.
“It was an eye opening experience because you had to see professional chefs from other countries preparing their dishes. We had to work under pressure so you have to have a fresh mind to sail through,” she said.
Chiwenga echoed her fellow colleagues’ sentiments, saying the participation gave then exposure in as much as it was an eye opening experience.
“It was an exhilarating experience to see that there are other experienced chefs out there. We felt the pressure as the competitions required a lot of thinking but most of all it was fun being around other chefs,” she said.
Nyamadzawo said in as much as it was an amazing experience to participate at HAAPI, she lamented the lack of adequate equipment in the Zimbabwean culinary industry.
“It was an amazing experience but we do not have enough equipment in Zimbabwe. Some of the things we managed to put through but most of all it was fun,” she said.
Based in Newlands, Harare, Culinary Arts Academy trains chefs for the Zimbabwean industry from certificate to Advanced Diploma level.
It scooped the second price in the chefs cooking competition student category at the just ended Sanganai Expo held in Bulawayo. Culinary Arts Academy sales and marketing manager Mr George Rugoho said they were proud of their students who lifted the country’s flag high.
“We are proud of our students who competed with senior chefs who are already practising in the industry. It gives them the confidence that we are impacting the right skills both theoretically and practically,” he said.