In the world of cooking, some chefs create dishes that tantalise the taste buds, while others craft meals that touch the soul. Xoliswa Ndoyiya, the personal chef of the iconic Nelson Mandela, belongs firmly in the latter category. Her cookbook, “Made with Love,” is not just a collection of recipes; it’s a heartfelt homage to a great leader and a celebration of South African heritage through food.
A Culinary journey rooted in tradition
“What inspired you to pursue a career in cooking and become a chef?” we asked Xoliswa. Her response was a testament to the power of familial bonds and cultural heritage. Growing up in Queenstown, she discovered her love for cooking while preparing meals with her grandmother. It was a passion that stayed with her, ultimately leading her to her destiny as a professional chef.
However, it was her unique expertise in Xhosa-style cuisine that caught the attention of Nelson Mandela. When asked about her early days as a chef, Xoliswa recounted the interview with Mr. Mandela, who wanted the comfort of “Ukutya kwasekhaya,” or home food. This marked the beginning of her remarkable journey as his personal chef, teaching her the invaluable lesson that even the most important individuals often crave the simplicity and familiarity of home-cooked meals.
Cooking for an Icon
Xoliswa fondly remembers her time as Nelson Mandela’s personal chef. His preferences were straightforward, reflecting his humble nature. He appreciated the efforts of his kitchen team, understanding the sacrifices they made to serve his family. Cooking for a global icon could have been intimidating, but Mandela’s graciousness and respect for his kitchen staff made it a fulfilling experience.
“Made with Love” – A Culinary Legacy
The decision to write a cookbook was motivated by Xoliswa’s desire to showcase her identity beyond her role as a chef. She wanted to share her love for South African family food, emphasizing that it represents the rich tapestry of the nation’s cuisine. “Made with Love” is not just a cookbook; it’s a culinary journey that reflects the diversity of South African food culture, driven by Xoliswa’s deep-rooted love for her country.
A taste of South African Heritage
South African heritage is diverse, and Xoliswa’s cookbook beautifully captures this diversity. Her childhood memories of Eastern Cape Xhosa recipes feature prominently in the book. In celebration of Heritage Month, she recommends two must-try recipes: Samp and beans and Umleqwa (organic chicken). These dishes, like many others in the book, offer readers a taste of South Africa’s rich cultural heritage.
Cooking with love
In the book, two recipes hold special significance for Xoliswa. The Oxtail Stew, a favourite of Nelson Mandela, exemplifies the power of food to bring people together, as he often invited friends and family to share this dish. The second, Umphokoqo (creamery meal), tells a unique tale. Xoliswa had to secretly prepare and smuggle this dish to London for Mandela, an act of culinary devotion that showcases the lengths to which she went to satisfy his cravings.
A tribute to a fatherly figure
Xoliswa’s relationship with Nelson Mandela was more than that of an employer; he became a father figure. He imparted valuable life lessons, including the importance of accepting criticism, respecting others wholeheartedly, and doing good without expecting rewards. Her cookbook is a heartfelt tribute to a man whose legacy transcends generations.
Supporting local communities
Through the Masamayi Tourism Group, Xoliswa continues to honor Nelson Mandela’s legacy by hosting events that celebrate his life and values. They provide a platform for cultural events, book launches, and reflective strategy sessions. The group’s partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation contributes to skills development and talent showcasing, uplifting local communities and supporting emerging businesses.
‘Made with Love’ is more than just a cookbook; it’s a testament to the power of food to bridge cultures, evoke memories, and pay tribute to a remarkable leader. Xoliswa Ndoyiya’s culinary journey takes readers on a heartfelt tour of South African heritage, one dish at a time, proving that food is a universal language that can convey love and respect across generations.
Feature image: Supplied