Self-taught cook Charmaine Ramalope-Makhubela on pursuing her passion in the kitchen

Self taught cook Charmaine Ramalope-Makhubela.
Self taught cook Charmaine Ramalope-Makhubela.
Image: Supplied.

After four monotonous years in the IT industry, Charmaine Ramalope-Makhubela returned to her first love, the kitchen, to pursue her passion.

“Food has always been something that I have been fascinated about, so in 2014 that is when I decided to take the big leap and become a foodie.”

Ramalope-Makhubela owns GlamFoodie, which offers nutritional food styling, recipe development, and event-architect services.

“The recipe development and food styling, I started with last year and most of my service offerings were consulting and event architecture. When Covid happened, I started focusing more on the recipes, food-styling, and food-photography side of the business.”

The Vosloorus-born, self-taught cook was raised by her mother and grandmother in Mamelodi in Pretoria. 

“My grandmother had a lot of cookbooks, she used to collect them. I just remember going through lots and lots of pages of cookbooks and we would cook from them from time to time. 

If we didn’t have all the ingredients we would improvise in the kitchen, which was the fun part. I just remember helping her to make pies as a young kid. We used to make pies from scratch — my grandmother introduced me to a lot of cuisines.”

Chief among her challenges when she began pursuing her culinary journey where her lack of contacts and knowledge of the culinary industry.

“I had zero startup capital, no infrastructure, no industry connects, so I had to build my business from scratch. When you don’t have a qualification, people don’t really believe in what you can deliver, so you always have to prove people wrong. You have to outdo yourself and have a work ethic to show people that you’re capable.”

Despite not having a formal culinary qualification, she credits her background in fine arts for her eye for food photography, styling, and how she curates events.

She recently completed her diploma in nutrition and she’s not afraid of a challenge. “I try to challenge myself as often as possible. If it means entering a foodie competition, I can put myself out there. As a nobody, you want people to know you and any opportunity you are given you take it.”

Self taught cook Charmaine Ramalope-Makhubela.
Self taught cook Charmaine Ramalope-Makhubela.
Image: Supplied.

In 2015 she started a platform called GlamFoodie Wine & Dine, which celebrates “haute cuisine and luxury wines”. 

“It has afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with some highly acclaimed chefs and led me to host a cooking show on Viva Nation TV.”

Ramalope-Makhubela was also one a runner-up in the very first The Taste Master SA — a reality cooking TV show that aired on SABC 3 in 2019. 

And her 2021 has been packed as well. “There have been a lot of highlights for me this year. In March I hosted an event called ‘Tapas and Tannins’ at La Parada restaurant and bar, which was the first event in Joburg that they had. They asked me to host and curate the menu and it was a sold-out event, which was amazing!” 

Ramalope-Makhubela is also working on the food styling for an upcoming cookbook, as well as focusing her business towards making healthy, sustainably sourced foods.

“I am passionate about sustainability and teaching people to know where their food comes from because it has an impact on the ecosystem. I’m more into conscious eating right now, such as buying food that’s in season.”

Seeing that a lot of South Africans are on the same path, she notes that even retailers are trying to change things by sourcing locally when they can.

“I think also that the consumer is more conscious; it’s something that is still in progress. We have a long way to go but it’s nice to see. I’m positive about where we are headed.”

This article first appeared in the May/June 2021 print edition of S Mag.