To become a pastry chef you need dedication to perfection because nothing less will do. Those who succeed are eagerly sought after as there is a worldwide shortage of artistic and talented pâtissiers. They have the precious gift of producing exquisite confectionary that stuns the eye and delights the palate.
I’ve been in the culinary industry for the past 15 years. I started college in 2003 at DUT for Catering Management, and I graduated with a diploma in 2006.
My first job was at the Durban ICC in 2004 as a commis chef in the pastry kitchen. In 2008 I was placed in a graduate program for a year to be in all the kitchens. I then was promoted to a Chef de Partie in 2009 for pastry. I am currently part of the ISO team at the Durban ICC. I have knowledge in 9001 Quality Management System, 14001 Environmental Health, 22000 Food Safety Management System and 180001 Health & Safety.
I had cross-training in 2015 at the Oyster Box hotel. I have worked in all their kitchens. I have certificates in internal Auditing of Food Safety. I’m also a Health and Safety Representative. As of 2019, I am the Pastry Sous Chef at the Durban ICC.
I’m a proud mother of two boys, and in my spare time, I attend church.
Grill Jichana, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani
From melt-in-your-mouth macarons to decadent petit fours, and lip-smacking artisanal ice cream, pastry commis chef, Alka Gyanda is determined to take baking and decorating to a whole new level.
As a professionally trained baker, 24-year-old Gyanda, will step into her new role as the newly appointed pastry commis chef at Grill Jichana at Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani hotel next month.
“I am excited to join the team and add my creative flair to the kitchen. I am also looking forward to learning more and taking on new challenges,” said Gyanda who hails from Reservoir Hills, Durban.
While Gyanda has always loved to bake and admired anything cake-related, it wasn’t until she was old enough to understand the intricacies of measurements and using utensils and equipment independently, that she dove into the world of baking and cake-decorating in full swing.
“I would always find myself in the kitchen and I absolutely loved the smell of oven-baked cakes and pies. I drew a lot of inspiration from my family and loved spending time cooking meals together,” she said. When Gyanda completed matric, she spent a year at law school at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. It was not long after that she followed her true passion by joining the International Hotel School in Westville.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision at all. It was a no brainer to follow my dreams and I knew that the kitchen has my heart.”
She enrolled in 2015 and completed a diploma in Culinary Arts as well as a CTH diploma in Professional cookery. In addition, she completed a diploma in Patisserie.
“It was a lot of hard work and it was a bit stressful, but I was overjoyed when it was accomplished and I was now equipped with the knowledge to take my skill to the next level,” she said.
Gyanda gained professional experiential training at Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani kitchens and says she is most grateful for the wonderful mentorship.
“I could not have asked for a better training environment. It was a dynamic busy kitchen, but it was easy to fit in and make magic happen. I loved the energy which always kept me on my toes and eager to improve my skills.”
After experiential training, Gyanda relocated to Cape Town where she worked at a restaurant in Constantia before joining the Red Carnation Group at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa where she worked for a year before returning to her hometown.
“Durban has my heart and I am so excited to move into my new role at Grill Jichana. I am a nonconformist and try to adopt my own style in the kitchen. I am inspired by originality and using fresh produce in my dishes,” she says.
Gyanda’s long term goal is to eventually set up her very own bespoke boutique bakery offering patrons decadent sweet delights as well as fresh bread and pastries.
Suncoast Sunsquare Hotel & Towers
Chef Nagasur’s career commenced after studying Catering Management at the Durban University of Technology. Nikita soon developed both a passion and a preference for cooking. Her combined in-service training was completed at Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani and the International Convention Centre. She is a seasoned Chef with six years of industry experience.
Nikita ventured abroad to America where she took up the position of Commis Chef at Disney World, Orlando, Florida. She gained extensive experience having worked in a variety of departments within the kitchen. Nikita was handpicked and together with her team carried the responsibility of Fine Dining Exhibition Show Kitchens at Disney.
On her return to South Africa, Chef Nagasur carried with her the Disney magic which she infused into her team at Suncoast Casino.
She has since transitioned from Casino kitchens to Hotel where her focus is the diversification of her skill set and the impartment of knowledge.
Nikita is currently engaged with Pastry as it is what she loves best. Her aim is to shift mindsets with reference to the perception of pastry. She relishes conceptualization and is not shy to bring her skill to the table.
It is evident that her trip abroad has contributed to her culinary skill and education as she continues to explore new innovative cooking trends.
Her leisure time is spent with her younger brother or hiking.
The Beverly Hills
Life in the Kitchen…
Meet Chef Sohail Seegobin, one of Beverly Hills’ upcoming Pastry Chefs.
Sohail is 21 years old and started baking from a tender age with his Gran. He studied at the South African Hospitality Institute, Chef’s Training Academy and Cake Engineering School.
Sohail has worked at the Bread Mill (previously known as Bread Ahead very popular amongst the Durban community) and Renegade Kitchen and now at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Sohail has an amazing finesse for the artisanal craft of pastry and thrives on baking exquisite cakes.
“My all-time favorite dish to make when I am hosting or just need a pick me up has to be a good old butter Madeira, something so simple yet so versatile which can be dressed up or down,” says Sohail.
“My role models are Chef Joanita Venter (Beverly Hills Executive Pastry Chef) & Kishi Arora (Founder of Foodaholics)”
Sohail’s Kitchen Motto: If you have a constant unwavering desire to be a better chef than you were yesterday the days before you will be great.
Protea Hotel by Marriott® Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton
“I’m 28 years old,” says Percy. “I started at Balalaika in 2011 where I did my orientation training, learning about the industry.
My initial focus was to be a hotel manager, but then I went into the kitchen and found this was truly where my passion was. Working with food is fantastic. Not many of my friends knew how to cook so when I would go see them on my time off I would cook for them and they would be amazed that I could do this.
I’d tell them that this was a simple thing to make or that I spent all day every day making this, but loved that they like this of me. I went to the University of Johannesburg to study management and after failing I think this was the true push I needed to apply for a position in the kitchen and let this be something I would focus on.
I enjoy what I do, but there are days when I’m exhausted and wonder if I chose the right career and then I meet a guest or a conference delegate who said that I must give compliments to the chef who had made a dih (and this was something I had made) made the long hours worth it as I had put a smile on a stranger’s face, and sometimes this becomes a regular face who asks for me and asks for his favourite dish. That is why we work in this industry.
I recently became a father to a little boy, he is a month old and I know I need to be the best that I can for this child. He is to look up to me as I guide him through life and participating in the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge will be a way I show him what I did when he was small. This competition can change my life, and change his life!”
Tsogo Sun Gauteng Team
InterContinental OR Tambo, The Palazzo, 54 on Bath
Chef Jerry Magae, 28, was born in the township called Mapetla Ext, Soweto. In 2009 he moved to North West, Rustenburg in Moruleng… that’s where he completed his high school level. He then studied Hospitality and Catering Services, now awaiting to graduate with his Diploma Certificate. He is an orphan but since 2010 he has been taken care of by an external loving family.
For as long as he can remember he was born with a passion for cooking. He grew up watching more cooking shows than cartoons. He was given a chance to cook for his family at a young age and his love for cooking grew.
During his tertiary level, he started working at Mogwase shopping complex, Chicken Licken in order to sustain himself while studying. Then in December 2013 he started working a The Palace of the Lost City under the guidance of the late Chef Nicholas Froneman. There he was given an opportunity to work at The Grill Room, Crystal Court, Plum fine dining and The Palace pool kitchen.
Due to his passion, hard work, dedication and being consistent; he became part of the South African junior Chef team in 2016 for the Alen Thong Young Chef Colden Coffee Pot Challenge in Abu Dhabi, Dubai. He and his team made the nation proud by obtaining Bronze. He took part in the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Cook-Off in 2016 and 2018.
He then moved to Southern Sun, Montecasino with the late Chef Nicholas Froneman (April 2018) and took the opportunity to transfer to The Palazzo hotel, Montecasino 1st January 2019. He became a full-time Pastry Chef under the supervision of Chef Marco Gaspar. He was given the opportunity to attend hot and cold workshop 2018 and Sweet Dough Workshop 2019. He is happy to be part of Tsogo Sun and The Palazzo Hotel!
GIRLY AGNES NYONI
De Hoek Country Hotel
Chef Girly is from Magaliesburg and has been working at De Hoek since 2007, starting as a sculler she then was promoted to become a housekeeper in 2010 and worked in that role up until 2017.
In 2017 Girly was afforded the opportunity to train as a pastry chef because she had been bringing delicious baked goods from home and in expressing her talent and love for baking, earned herself a position as a trainee in the pastry kitchen.
The love of food drove her passion to further herself in the culinary field, which brought the amazing opportunity to attend at HTA School of Culinary Art to obtain a 1-year in-service diploma.
Sun Time Square
“Born on 7th August 1995 and raised in Limpopo,” says Olga.
“The pastry department was where I wanted to get lost in the world of cakes, confectionery, and patisserie. I am an eager learner and crave absorbing as much knowledge as possible.
I entered the competition to expand my horizons, test myself against the best and further my own capabilities, not only do I want to seize the moment but I’m going to embrace all the lessons that come with it.”
The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa
Born and raised in Cape Town, Ryan matriculated at Malibu High School in 2015 and then attended Culinary Arts course at Capsicum in 2016, where he studied food preparation and patisserie.
Ryan’s career path in the kitchen started at Bistro 13 in 2016, where he was a student and completed his internship. He gained experience on all the sections within the kitchen but fell in love with pastry.
In 2017, Ryan joined the team at Sweetwell Restaurant, baking artisan breads and confectionery products to supply the restaurant. Finding his stride in pastry, his favorite thing to create became the cheesecake which he really mastered.
Ryan started at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa as Demi Pastry Chef in 2018. He is responsible for producing all the pastry items for the hotel. Items for afternoon tea, like chocolate brownies, madelines, macarons and confectioneries.
When he’s not busy creating delectable treats Ryan can be found enjoying a good movie with friends or having a picnic with family. He also likes going for nature hikes.
Belmond Mount Nelson
“The intricacy and scientific structure of pastry developed my passion for the craft,” says Azriel.
“I look for inspiration from people around me as well as from current and classic food trends around the world. I see myself growing in this industry as well as developing the necessary skills required to reach world-class standards.”
BIANCA DE ANDRADE
I was born in Cape Town, Western Cape. I went to Westerford High School and studied culinary arts at South African Chefs Academy. I’m currently studying patisserie at Capsicum. I’ve always been passionate about baking, coming from a Portuguese family, my mother and grandmother were always in the kitchen creating delicious treats while I was growing up, so the love started from a young age. In grade 8 I started my own cake business and made my first wedding cake the same year. I am always keen to learn more about the art and can’t wait for what my future in the industry holds.
NH The Lord Charles
“My love for baking started at Pick ’n Pay in 2000 when I was employed to clean the bakery each day,” says Ferdinand. “Due to my curiosity, my supervisor promoted me to the baking tables. What fascinated me most was how certain ingredients reacted to others and how easy it is to make mistakes. This is where I realized that precision is a big part of my job. I worked on the dough tables for five years when I got the opportunity to move to confectionery where I realized how much there still is to learn and grow in the pastry department.
I enrolled at Capsicum Culinary Studio doing a Patisserie course. During my course, I fulfilled my practical hours at NH The Lord Charles Hotel. I fell in love with the dynamics, people and the passion they have for Pastry arts. Chef Henrico Grobbelaar gave me the opportunity to take on a current position after my course and shortly after I met my mentor Oscar Baard, Head Pastry Chef and member of the South African Olympic Culinary Team 2020. His mind is completely set on pastry and how to do new and exciting things in our department. He pushes me to do better and try new things and is my motivation on a daily basis. Chef Henrico has done so much for me and helped me grow even bringing in Jac Kolver to teach me how to keep live yeast alive and how to bake with it taking my knowledge of baking bread to an entirely new level.
My goal for this competition is to challenge myself in taking the amazing ingredients that I’ve been given and to produce bread of superior quality and showcase my pastry talents.”
The President Hotel
Palesa Klaasen, born 1993 from Queens Town; Eastern Cape, formed a passion for cooking at the tender age of 19 years old just after she started studying law at UWC, she enrolled for a professional cookery course at CPUT straight away.
After her studies she started her career at the Pepper Club Hotel & Spa, followed by The Silo Hotel and thankfully now practices her skills and talent at The President Hotel in Bantry Bay.
Palesa is taking part in the Distell Interhotel Challenge 2020 as the Pastry Chef and Baker where she hopes to get one step closer to perfecting her dishes. Her efforts towards detail are inspirational and definitely a talent to keep an eye on for the future.
In her spare time, Palesa enjoys upping her knowledge through programs such as Food Network and reading cookbooks.
Palesa is a proud mother of one and tries to spend as much free time with her as possible.
The Table Bay Hotel, Sun International
Lwando is a Demi Chef at The Table Bay. He came to the hotel for training six years ago and has worked consistently to achieve this level. He describes himself as a hard worker who finds tremendous joy in learning new things, working within a team and sharing his knowledge. He simply loves cooking and watches culinary shows on TV to learn about new trends and different baking techniques. Lwando names The Table Bay’s head Pastry Chef Lee-Andra Govender is his inspiration.
Lwando is as passionate about his field as he was when he first started. “I love this career. I am continually learning from my senior chefs and expanding my knowledge. It is through continuous learning that we become better every day,” he says.
He is thrilled at the opportunity to showcase his skills in the Distell Inter Hotel Challenge. He would love to win, which he says will put his name on the map.
Lanzerac Hotel & Spa
During her student years, Anna-Marie Baker worked at Knus Karoo Kombuis, before studying at the Swiss Institute of Hospitality. She then joined the Lanzerac team to pursue her passion for the culinary arts.
Anna-Marie is creative and has a big imagination when it comes to food, she loves to push her boundaries with trying new and exciting ideas. She is loved in the kitchen and her colleagues would describe her as focused, yet a kind and helpful individual.
Her dream is to open her own restaurant one day, combining food and art, but for now, her goal is to better her skills in the kitchen.
When she is not in the kitchen, her happy place is in her garden at home or hiking. She feels the most content when practising meditation and being outdoors.