Top South African Chefs Speak Out About Representation in the Kitchen

Originally published by Food & Wine

Zola Nene, celebrated TV chef and co-host of The Great South African Bake Off, is known for her wit and warmth on screen. Between offering cooking tips on television to sharing home-style recipes on Instagram from her first cookbook Simply Delicious, Nene can be spotted at the country’s snazziest food and wine events dressed in her trademark bright colors and Zulu bead accessories.

“I’ve been told many times during my career that I only got to where I am because I am a Black woman,” she says. “What those people don’t understand is that I have to work twice as hard to earn any recognition because of these very stereotypes. I’m a good chef and stylist and food writer—I hate it when people undermine that.” Nene says that it started when she was the only Black student at her cooking school back in 2010. “I remember being singled out a lot to do certain appearances because I was the only ‘token Black,’” she says. “They never used those words, but it was obvious.”

Nene’s career has taken her from top professional kitchens into the creative world of television, but overall, there remains a dire lack of Black representation at the head of South Africa’s established fine-dining restaurants. This conspicuous absence continues across food publications – writers, editors, photographers and, to a lesser degree, stylists.

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