To mark its 20th anniversary, Capsicum Culinary Studio, South Africa’s largest culinary school, launched its Chef Talent Scout competition earlier this year, with more than R500 000 in bursaries to be won.
The contest, which was held nationwide, asked entrants to submit a recipe and a two-minute video of a dish they had created and send it to their preferred Capsicum campus of choice – Rosebank (Johannesburg), Boksburg, Pretoria, Durban, Nelson Mandela Bay or Cape Town. Entries were whittled down by a panel of judges with a short list of aspiring young cooks competing against each other with a winner from each campus finally being chosen.
The prize? A life-changing bursary for each of the six winners to study, for one year, either the Professional Chef or the Professional Patisserie Programme, at the school campus in their area.
Says Candice Adams, Academic Operations Manager at Capsicum Culinary Studio: “The aim of the competition was not only to find the best untapped culinary talent in the country, but also an excellent opportunity for aspiring chefs and pâtissiers to kickstart their careers and gain the necessary skills to become world-class professionals.”
One of the six winners was Palesa Ramalale who competed against the other Boksburg finalists last weekend. The 19-year-old from Hospital View in Tembisa will be taking up the bursary in 2024 and studying for the Advanced Professional Chef course.
We caught up with her shortly after the announcement of her win and asked her a few questions:
1. When and how did your interest in cooking start?
My interest in cooking started in Grade 2 when my teacher asked us to bring in our favourite food and I got really inspired in the kitchen to make something and do well. My passion for food really kicked off when I was in Grade 5 when I was tasked with preparing a three-course meal for a Life Orientation project. I loved coming up with the dishes and preparing them and knew then it was something I wanted to do as a career.
2. Why did you enter the competition?
Because it was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass by, and the fact that a chef at Capsicum would look at my dish and think that it was creative enough to get me into the final round.
3. Tell us about your winning dish – what was it and where did you get the inspiration from?
It was a chocolate fondant with ricotta. I was inspired by how fondants ooze out at the centre but are still fully cooked. I just knew that I had to try and create one myself.
4. What did it feel like when you were announced as the winner?
Confusing. One contestant tapped me on the shoulder, telling me that I won. But I still couldn’t understand it. It was only when I received the certificate that said I was the winner, that I cried tears of joy.
5. What would you like to be doing in five years’ time?
I would like to be a food critic. Whenever I go out with my friends to restaurants, I like giving my opinion on the dish placed in front of me, and what I think they could do better in terms of presentation. I’d also fancy being a television presenter and showcasing my food.
6. Name five things always in your fridge or pantry
Potatoes, muffin mix, chicken, cheese and eggs.
7. What would be your last meal?
I have quite the sweet tooth, so it would include a chocolate flavoured muffin with a side of vanilla ice cream and a cup of hot coffee.
8. What do you not eat?
Onions, mopane worms, strawberries and mushrooms. My family and friends always ask me what kind of chef doesn’t eat onions and I always tell them that just because I don’t eat onions, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t cook them for someone who does or because the recipe calls for it.
9. If you had to cook dinner for five famous people, who would they be and what would you make them?
Chris Hemsworth, Johnny Depp, Guy Fieri, Zola Nene and Ree Drummond. The dish I’d cook for them would be the famous seven colours, only because they could have a taste of my South African heritage. (A standard seven colours plate must contain the basics like meat of your choice, gravy, rice, potatoes, butternut or pumpkin, bean salad, beetroot, green beans or peas and carrots.)
10. What is your favourite kitchen utensil and why?
My pastry brush! Because it makes glazing scones so much easier.
Finally, Ramalale shares with us the recipe for her winning dish – Chocolate Fondant with Ricotta:
Chocolate Fondant with Ricotta
- Ingredients for the Chocolate fondant
- 170 g 70% dark chocolate
- 150 g butter
- 2 eggs
- 43 g sugar
- 15 g flour
- Pinch of salt
- Ingredients for the Ricotta
- 1½ cups full cream
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1½ tablespoons cottage cheese.
- 5ml vanilla essence.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease 5 ramekins with butter and coat with flour and set aside.
Melt the butter and chocolate over a double boiler. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until pale and thick.
Add the flour and whisk until well incorporated.
When the butter and chocolate have melted, slowly add it to the egg mixture and mix well.
Pour the batter into the ramekins and bake at 180°C for 10 minutes. Remove and leave to rest.
Whisk the cream in a blender and gradually add the caster sugar.
Add the cottage cheese and continue blending. Finally, add the vanilla essence and give a final whisk to incorporate.
Serve the fondant and ricotta on a plate and garnish with strawberries and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.
Supplied by Jag Communications
Feature image: Supplied