Nti Ramaboa releases her cookbook titled Chef Nti on September 13. Clinton Moodley spoke to Ramaboa on her new book, the meal she prepares when she is lazy, and the celeb couple she wants to cook for.
First off, congratulations on your new book. It looks stunning. Before we get into that, can you tell us how did your cooking journey begin?
I have been cooking for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with my mom.
When did you know that you wanted to be a chef?
I never really considered a career as a chef, it was something that happened by chance. I have always been an entrepreneur. When a business venture fell through, I had a sense of being incomplete and that I had to start again from the beginning. I decided I was going to do something that I absolutely loved, which for me was cooking. I have not looked back.
So, what is Chef Nti’s style of cooking?
I describe my style of cuisine as afro-fusion. Africa has such a rich culture, which you can see in our food. I love telling the story of who we are through food. I enjoy elevating traditional favourites by giving them a modern take. My love affair with Mediterranean food began with an introduction to Italian cuisine when I lived in Bali and Italy for two years when I was in my early 20s. I am also obsessed with Asian cuisine. It’s a style of food that packs a punch.
Your new book comes out next week. Can you tell us more about it?
It's called “Chef Nti”. It not only looks at my journey with food but also the various dishes, cuisines and places that have influenced my passion for food. The cookbook is a series of recipes that I collected over the years. They have all been tried and tested. I have many delectable recipes that are quick to prepare. I love that I don’t need more than 30 minutes to get a meal ready.
Your restaurant “Taste Kitchen” has become one of the country’s most popular establishments. How did it all come together?
I was in search of a premise as we outgrew my kitchen at home. I fell in love with a white French colonial building with an incredible amount of personality. The restaurant is located on a strip of restaurants, so naturally, everyone expected Taste Kitchen to operate as one. But, I decided if I’m going to do this, I’m doing it my way. Every event is completely bespoke and different from the next. We partner with local businesses and curate individual experiences for our guests, including picking up guests from home with shuttle services.
What is your favourite meal to prepare when you are lazy and why?
I always prioritise nutritional value, so I love making a fresh Papaya Salad. As a lover of easy to prepare meals in the kitchen, the most time I’ll spend cooking a dish is around 30 minutes.
What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
Congratulations you have entered an exciting career. Get ready to work hard in a growing industry where you can carve your own path.
Do you have any exciting stories to share about famous chefs on your journey?
Yes, I do. I was fortunate to train under Chef David Higgs, but I doubt he will remember seeing my face. Everyone in the kitchen was terrified of him. I made sure I did everything right, kept my head down, worked hard and stayed out of his way. LOL. I worked at the Good Food & Wine Show in 2017 with Marco Pierre White and many other celebrated chefs. I remember on the last day of the show, Marco, amid rushing to get to the airport, singled me out and kissed me goodbye. That’s one of my happy stories.
Name the 5 items you always have in your kitchen pantry?
Parmesan cheese, garlic, chilli, Le Crueset pots and Chakalaka sauce from Taste Kitchen.
What is your pet peeve in the kitchen?
Poor hygiene. Always wash your hands!
Which celebrity would you like to prepare a meal for, and what will you serve?
Jay Z and Beyonce, I would make them some proudly South African cuisines, which would definitely include iKota and Magwinya.
What are your future plans?
I want to launch more cookbooks and products in stores.
What is the motto you live by?
“Feel the fear and do it anyway!”