Kitchen is my sanctuary, she declares

Rafu whips up exquisite flavours in cooking contest

Londiwe Dlomo Journalist
Chef David Higgs’ and the winner of the second season of Cooking for a Cause, Kholiwe Rafu.
Chef David Higgs’ and the winner of the second season of Cooking for a Cause, Kholiwe Rafu.

It was a fusion of flavours reflecting the diversity in South African cuisine that got Kholiwe Rafu first prize on the second season of Cooking for a Cause’.

 The cooking competition was broadcast on YouTube and the proceeds from it have been donated to the Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund.

Rafu’s winning dish was a hake coated in homemade garam masala, crispy za’atar bread with garlic, and a creamy mushroom pasta.  

“What I decided to do was focus on flavours that I was familiar with, so that’s what I wanted to do because I didn’t want to reinvent my wheel on that day. I wanted to represent exactly what my cooking style is.

 "I’ve always said that I make amazing pasta, so I focused on flavours and focused on what I know to perfect it.”

Rafu, a capture procedure manager for a surgical devices company, said  her background working as a waitress in a fine dining establishment opened her mind up to experimenting with different cuisines.  

“It’s literally just a passion; I don’t have any chef qualifications or courses I took in that at all. I just love doing it. I think honestly it really started because for a couple of years I actually was a waitress, then I really got into food… from there on I got the love for food that was not necessarily in my real house or I grew up with. It opened up my mind to experimenting with different cuisines,” she said.

Rafu’s love for food is evident as her Instagram feed is filled with mouthwatering images of crispy crackling meat and pretty sweet looking desserts. She started beefing up her game and gained followers during the early stages of the national lockdown. Rafu aims to become a food and lifestyle influencer.

“This is still a passion project that I do on weekends. It’s totally outside of what I do on a day-to-day basis.”  

Her normal work is so different from her passion, but it works for her. The kitchen is her sanctuary.  

“It really is like an escape for me, just being in the kitchen and cooking because it’s so different from what I do on a daily basis. So when I go into the kitchen it is like such a special place for me, where I get to be really creative and use that side of me,”she explains.

Kholiwe says one of her favourite food memory is an octopus dish that she had in Barcelona on a business trip last year. The octopus was slow cooked, and seasoned with garlic and paprika. It is a dish that Rafu says she wants to recreate.  Her fondest memory involving food is the mielie bread that her grandmother used to make, in her hometown of Matatiele in the Eastern Cape.  

“It’s a traditional bread where you ferment maize and grind on a stone mortar. It’s like steamed bread, but it’s a very traditional thing. The steamed bread that we have today probably came from that,” she says.   

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