Siba Mtongana’s impact on South Africa’s food scene can never be denied. Not only has she made it “cool” to cook, but she is mobbed everywhere she goes. Her cooking show, Siba’s Table on the Food Network, is shown in more than 130 countries.
She will be at the sold-out Mercury’s Women’s Day Lunch event on Thursday at the Durban ICC, where she will share tips and tricks in the kitchen and sign copies of her best-selling and award-winning book, Welcome To My Table.
More people are having fun in the kitchen. How much do you think shows like Siba’s Table have contributed to that?
I was probably the first black South African to have a cooking show on TV and to be regarded as a “celebrity chef”. Before me it was Dorah Sithole, but she was mostly known as a food editor on magazines. I see the impact the show has when I bump into people and they tell me they have tried all my recipes and how I got them to have fun in the kitchen again. I’ve tried my best to make sure that the content on the show transcends generations and race and I see that when I meet people.
People are not afraid to show their hard work in the kitchen on social media. Do you think this has also made it “cooler” for people to know how to cook well?
Definitely. I remember when I was at chef school, the term “foodie” did not exist. People who loved food were seen as awkward. I love that people now see that food is beyond just sustenance, and about enjoyment. People are having fun with food, with trends, and social media is a big driving force. I encourage it.
I have always wondered what you would normally make for yourself after a long day at work – do you have a go-to meal you make after work?
I do and it depends on the weather or my mood. My go-to late night snack is my peanut butter and banana with sourdough bread sandwich. It’s the perfect pick-me-up. I add some ice-cream if I’m really trying to be naughty. The recipe is in my book.
Your favourite thing to cook?
Two ingredients – ginger and garlic. I’ve been using ginger in desserts for a while, it gives them that kick. I use ginger and garlic in most of my recipes, especially ginger.
With Women’s Month coming up and a lot of high tea events happening, how would you suggest people make sure they add some variety to the food they will be serving?
I would say iIt’s important to know the guests who are coming to your Women’s Month event, as that will determine the kind of food that will be served.
I always say you need to ask if the people coming to the event are open to new ideas; whether their taste in food is sophisticated or not. This is important as it will then inform your catering decisions.
But you must also look at various high tea trends around the world and see how other countries have their women’s tea and lunch parties. There are always new food trends to try out.