Meet the Candidates

The chef who plates with Passion!

Candidate Chef: Riashnie Thaver Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani

Riashnie Thaver is proof that good things do come in small packages! The energetic 19-year old commis chef at Durban’s iconic Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel’s Grill Jichana restaurant has been working her magic in the kitchen, so much so that she has been selected to participate in the seventh annual Distell Inter Hotel Challenge.

Enticed by aromatic flavours and intricacies of food preparation, Thaver was drawn to the kitchen from an early age, which sparked her passion for the profession.

“I come from a very supportive family with big flavour, so it was years and years of watching my mum and grandmother prepare dishes in our kitchen or over an outdoor fire that reeled me in. I was always intrigued by the way they cooked, with lots of passion and lots of love,” said Thaver who matriculated with top honours at Durban Girls High School.

She explains she was in a position to choose any career put forward to her, but she chose to follow her passion.

“I am determined to break stereotypes and encourage more youngsters to do what they love. I was expected to follow a career in accounting but thanks to the support of my parents my dream became a reality,” she said.

Eager to succeed in the industry, Thaver enrolled at The South African Hospitality Institute where she completed her studies and equipped herself with the necessary skills to join leading hospitality group, Tsogo Sun, as a chef last year.

“It was an injection of pure joy and exuberance, as my appointment to this fantastic hotel came completely unexpected. To be given the opportunity to work at Durban’s most iconic hotels is a huge honour and I am sincerely grateful that they recognized my ability,” said Thaver who lives the mantra, ‘It’s not what you say you can do but more about what you can actually do.’

Even though her first few month’s at the hotel’s kitchens were gruelling, Thaver persevered and was determined to make an impact on her superiors by getting them to notice her ability.

After a year of hard work, passion and dedication at Grill Jichana, Thaver has been recognised as one of the hotel’s talented rising culinary stars destined for success. She is currently preparing to compete in the prestigious Distell Inter Hotel Challenge in June.

“I was thrilled when I was told and equally nervous but above all, I felt honoured to be selected and grateful for the opportunity to put my passion to the test. I am still preparing and this comes with intense practice, hard work and commitment.”

As the participating chef, Thaver will be expected to cook a three-course meal using pork and cheese as the main ingredients.

“I love the challenge and have been working hard to get the creative juices flowing. Much research has gone into this and I am busy crafting my entry.

Describing her cooking style, Thaver says the closest word would be “crazy”.

“I’m an out the box type of person and this comes through quite strongly when I cook. The unusual blend of flavours resonates with my personality and reflects who I truly am.

I create combinations unimaginable such as tequila caviar, white chocolate spaghetti with chocolate brownies smothered in wild berry compote. This is a play on spaghetti and meatballs in a dessert form,” explains Thaver. 

She adds that her favourite ingredient that she cannot cook without is butter. 

“It makes everything taste like a warm hug. Pure, authentic real butter! It enhances the natural flavours, adds richness to a dish and is a very versatile ingredient. It can find its way into every dish,” she says.

Candidate Chef: Cathrine Chetty Beverly Hills

“My name is Cathrine Chetty and I am 22 years old. I reside in Verulam, a little town along the North Coast of Kwa Zulu-Natal,” says Cathrine. “I joined Capsicum Cooking Studio in 2015 where I completed a 2-year course in Professional Cookery. Shortly after graduation, I was placed at the Beverly Hills Hotel where I finalized my 6 months in service duty.

I then moved to Sugar Rush restaurant in Ballito shortly after graduation, where I spent a year as a commis chef. In 2017, the opportunity to return to the Beverly Hills arose, and I joined as a commis chef. A solid foundation of cooking practice has been laid by the Beverly Hills team. I chose to become a chef because of the passion I have for food and its preparation, cooking for me is a retreat to my very own little happy place, it’s exciting and fulfilling. Being a chef also means that we are always learning and venturing into new ideas and combinations. I enjoy working with Asian cuisine because of its freshness and versatility. Being able to produce great food with my team under immense pressure, but this is what excites me most and drives me to be better at my craft and of course having happy, satisfied guests is the ultimate reward.

In 2018, I represented the Beverly Hills team by partaking in my very first professional cooking competition hosted by the Chaine des Rotisseurs where I had been placed 2nd at the Regional level for junior chefs. My dream is to one day own my own restaurant and showcase my cooking styles and then to become a lecturer, I would love to be able to pass down the knowledge that was taught to me to young aspiring chefs to be. In the next 5 years, I aim to be at a Sous Chef level within a 5 Star environment, something that I continue to pursue and work harder each new day.

I am grateful and privileged to be nominated as a candidate for the Inter-hotel challenge and will take all the learnings to heart. I am excited for the journey ahead.” 


Candidate Chef: Mpendulo Mbongeni Singwane Protea Hotel by Marriott Durban Edward

“I was born on the 26th of December, 1991,” says Mpendulo “I am from Malelane, a rural area on the borders of South Africa and Swaziland. After finishing matric, I had to go to find work. Things were never easy at home and as the eldest son, I had to make a difference.

I started as a dishwasher under Fedics Group in Cosmos Hospital, Emalahleni. This was considered the lowest position in that kitchen but I learnt that I was just as important as anybody else. 

Due to my good attitude and eagerness to learn, I was taken under the wings by my mentor – Chef Stanley who then started teaching me a lot about culinary arts and the amazing world of cooking. 
He kept mentioning that if one’s attitude is right and there is passion in what you do – then nothing can stop you. 
I could not believe how he managed such as big kitchen and still put out different dishes to his best ability.

After some time, I was promoted to be a cook and put on a development program through HTA School of culinary. I could not believe that the world is really such a great place, I later became a commis chef at Protea Hotel by Marriott, Durban Edward in January 2018.

Understanding the ins and outs of this industry became the best thing that is happening in my life. The stories that one shares are just like what I used to read about in books. 

The Distell Inter Hotel challenge is another step in my life, and I aim to make my family proud. My dream is to start a competitive restaurant that will fit my home town and teach more people about culinary artsin.”

Candidate Chef: Diandra Reuben Durban ICC

“I’m currently employed at the Durban International Convention Centre (Durban ICC) as a Graduate Demis Chef,” says Diandra Reuben, 25 years old.

“I have a passion for cooking and that is one of the main reasons I enrolled at the Ikusasa Hotel School after I matriculated from Kenmont High School in 2012.

I started my career at Durban ICC on 6 June 2014 because I wanted to learn more about the work that chefs do such as how to plan a menu, inspect and select ingredients as well as to be exposed to other chefs in the kitchen. 

For the past four years, while working at the Durban ICC, I have participated in several competitions in order to hone my culinary skills which include: 
Chaine des Rotisseurs Regional Chef in 2017
Brandy competition in 2015 

I was also afforded an opportunity to travel to Ivory Coast Abidjan in April 2017 for a week to cook for the ambassador of South Africa. This trip was one of the highlights of my career because I gained immense experience and exposure as a young chef who is eager to learn and grow in the industry.

I am currently working in the Halaal kitchen at the Durban ICC, where I mostly cook Indian dishes and I love what I am doing. When I started working in the Halaal kitchen I was working under the supervision of Chef Sheila Somers whom at the time was the Indian Cuisine Specialist.  

Presently, I am now working under the supervision of Chef Trisha Naidoo who is the new Indian Cuisine Specialist for the Durban ICC. I have gained a lot of experience over the years and have had the privilege to meet people from all over the world.

As a young chef, I am very passionate about what I do and aspire to be one of the best chefs in the industry. I believe that I can achieve this through hard work and perseverance.”

Durban ICC
The International Hotel School
KitchenAid Africa
Tsogo Sun
Southern Sun Elangeni and Maharani, Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Protea Hotels by Marriott
Protea Hotel by Marriott Durban Edward
The Beverly Hills 
Lancewood Cheese
South African Pork
Rio Largo Olive Estate
Khoisan Natural Sea Salt
Bio-Wheat Flour
Avanti Coffee SA

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