Find the perfect dress for every occasion...
Chef Siba Mtongana (pictured) may be the second South African to scoop a TV programme on the Food Network Channel, but combining the ingredients that make up her personal life and career may make her the first Mzansi host to have a reality TV show-esque cooking series, writes Helen Herimbi.
At a preview of the first episode of Sibahle “Siba” Mtongana’s aptly-titled Siba’s Table, for the media, Sue Walton of the Travel Channel says that “the show is about putting Siba’s passion for sharing things at the heart of what she puts on the table”. And this is evident in the 30-minute long episodes that borrow some reality TV elements.
Siba’s Table starts on the Travel Channel – which brought us South Africa’s own Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco – tonight.
In between Mtongana showing viewers how to make magnificent meals, we are shown glimpses of her life outside the kitchen. While preparing Asian glazed gammon, her mother’s favourite dish, we see her husband, Brian, and their son, Lonwabo, play on the trampoline in the garden and go shopping for flowers to complement Mtongana’s table. And, of course, in true reality TV style, there are “diary sessions” – close-ups of people spilling the beans on what the scenes we’re watching are about.
On Cooking With Siba, which Mtongana hosted on Mzansi Magic, the focus was on cooking with celebrities. Now she is the celebrity. While some people may shy away from putting their family on the small screen, Mtongana celebrates hers through this series. This is obvious when I visited her while she was shooting with the Pacific production team (which also launched Nigella Lawson) in Hout Bay where “I just wanted to display the beauty of Cape Town, too”, she says.
The East London-born chef who incorporates cooking traditions passed down from family elders gushes: “My husband and I have a date night every Thursday, but since having the baby, we have had to bring that to a halt. So we have decided to do date night in and you’ll see that in one of the episodes. I get to cook and he has to surprise me. This show is really my real life so it’s sort of like a reality show and it’s a lot of fun.
“The thing with me is that the people close to me hold up my cooking to a high standard,” Mtongana laughs, “so I take that seriously and think about what they would like. For example, I have a friend who isn’t big on meat so I have to think about what I can make for her.”
I confess that I’m not big on vegetables and she genuinely gasps, then exclaims: “You just haven’t tasted my veggies!”
Mtongana, who used to be a magazine food editor, is very likeable. Before she winks at the camera in the first episode, the Galliova Award-winning cook says things like: “I won’t use sugar in the dessert because the condensed milk is sweet enough. Like me!”
Walton tells us that Mtongana initially asked if she’d have to take acting classes for this show, but Mtongana smiles: “We’re not actors, we’re chefs.”
Mtongana found herself having to use words like “barbecue” instead of “braai” and substituting maize meal with polenta because “even though we keep our local flavour, Siba’s Table will be shown in 90 countries.
“I use some of those terms because I want everyone to be able to cook these recipes and it really p***es me off when I am interested in the dish and then someone uses an ingredient that isn’t available here.”
From watching and tasting her recipes, it’s clear Siba Mtongwana is the real deal and she has the stove burn scars on her hands to prove it.
• Siba’s Table airs on the Food Network (DStv channel 175) on Monday at 9pm.