The story of Siphokazi Mdlankomo: From domestic worker to TV show host

The story of Siphokazi Mdlankomo: From domestic worker to TV show host

Television chef Siphokazi Mdlankomo shows us why your background should never stand in the way of your dreams.

Siphokazi Mdlankomo

Siphokazi grew up in Tsolo, a small village outside of Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. She was raised by a single mother. She later relocated to Cape Town where she found work as a domestic worker.

But after working as a domestic worker for a Jewish family for 14 years, Siphokazi’s fate changed when her employers encouraged her to enter cooking competitions.

Not only did she make it to the final two in ‘MasterChef ‘in 2014, but she now has her own cooking show, called ‘Let’s Eat With Siphokazi’. She has also released a cook book, titled ‘My Little Black Recipe Book’.

The sought-after chef took some time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with us. Below is what she had to say:

Who is Siphokazi away from the limelight?

I am an ordinary, normal person who loves to be on my own, trying out recipes at home. I am relaxed, chilled and easy-going.

When did your love for cooking start and did you do any cooking courses?

I loved cooking from a young age, but the strong love for cooking started in 2001, my first year working as a domestic worker in Cape Town.

As a domestic worker, that is when I learned a lot about cooking, and I was trying out different recipes every day, so what better way to learn how to cook?

How do you come up with your recipes?

Some of the recipes are recipes I grew up cooking and eating, but now with the knowledge I have gained, I try by all means to give those recipes a new life, to revamp them. For example, pap - you can cook pap in so many different ways, not just the old-fashioned way. Pap lasagne, stuffed deep fried pap balls, papizza, the list is endless.

Most of your recipes on your show are traditional, and anyone, regardless of their background and their pocket, can cook them? Was this an intentional decision on your part, to come up with delicious, inexpensive recipes that ordinary South Africans can make and enjoy?

I believe it was intentional because most people believe that in order for someone to have a decent meal they have to go through all the trouble of buying expensive ingredients.

You can have a decent meal with only six ingredients, depending on how you cook them.

Did you ever dream that you would be a renowned chef?

Never in a million years have I ever dreamt that I would be a renowned chef.

You were a domestic worker who didn't allow her dreams to fail. If there is only one piece of advice that you would give someone who feels stuck in a career they don't like, what would it be?

You can leave the job once you know for sure that there is something that makes you happy that you will be doing. Work very hard to achieve your dreams but be warned, not everything will come on a silver platter, be patient and ask for help.

What's your favourite dish to cook?

Any Italian dish.

What has been the highlight of your career?

The highlight of my career was traveling to Spain to cook for 151 delegates from 51 countries around the world.

You have hosted a lot of people on your show. Who would you still love to host?

I would love to host Mara Louw. 

Lastly, what is the secret for making delicious meals?

Simple is the best and you need to enjoy cooking, because if you don’t, it shows on the plate.

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