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LEARNING CURVE | Professional chef shares recipe for success

Consulting company helps restaurants develop menus, train staff

Food consultant Rozanne Taljaard works her magic in any kitchen
DOMESTIC GODDESS: Food consultant Rozanne Taljaard works her magic in any kitchen
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

Gqeberha resident Rozanne Taljaard is an accomplished chef who is passionate about educating people on fuelling their bodies with the correct nutrition. She is now growing an edible garden to teach her children how to nourish their bodies with the proper food. 

After years as a chef, Taljaard started her own consulting company, Rozanne Taljaard Consulting.

Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started?

I took over my first kitchen as head chef when I was 21. It was at Caveau in Bree Street, Cape Town. After that I worked at Leinster Hall at the Cape Town Club and then La Boheme in Sea Point. I first started doing consulting in Cape Town while I baked custom desserts and pastries for delis and restaurants.

My husband and I moved from Cape Town to PE in 2015, and just after we moved here, I fell pregnant. I decided to leave restaurants as a chef and spend time with my infant. I had a stall at The Valley Market and did private cooking classes after my first child was born. I also a lectured at a local culinary school, after which I fell pregnant with our second child.  I did a few pop-up restaurant evenings, freelance catering and functions, but being a mom became a full-time job.

I was contacted by the SPAR group and asked to come on board as a consultant in their prepared meals departments. I did staff training, recipe development and focused on increased kitchen efficiency while increasing productivity. But then Covid hit. Prepared meals came to a grinding halt and all my time was spent trying to “home school” and survive.

I was then contacted by a local gym that wanted to open a restaurant. They were inexperienced in the restaurant trade and looking for someone to help set up the restaurant, do staff training, costings and assist in the general start-up of the restaurant.

After that RT Consulting was officially born.

How old is your business?

It started seven years ago in Cape Town, but it was on and off and I only really applied myself to build it from 2019.

What is your core service?

Chef consultant, menu development and staff training.

How did you manage your business during the pandemic?

Sadly I didn’t, or couldn’t. With the hospitality industry taking such a hard hit, no-one could spend money on an external consultant while trying to keep their doors open and pay their staff.

What makes your business unique?

I have 18 years of hospitality experience in reputed, award-winning restaurants and I love the industry. I do one project at a time and give my full attention to each client. There are few things as valuable as experience.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

Work in the industry, from the bottom to the top and then apply that experience to helping other restaurateurs.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?

My own procrastination, and the fact that I had small children who needed my full attention at the time.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?

Work hard. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Be willing to do everything yourself, from scrubbing pots to taking orders.

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?

Consistency and staff.  You are only as good as your last meal served.  I can teach someone how to do something perfectly, but human error is always present in any industry.

What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?

Just keep at it, keep trying.

How do you measure or define success in your business?

If I left a client better off, and managed to inspire the staff about what it is we do, that is success. Chefs can get VERY excited about food, ingredients and new dishes but it can also be very hard because you are working with personal preference. Chefs take complaints or criticism about their food very personally.

What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?

The fact that I understand each restaurant or retail food outlet is different. You have a different clientele at each, with different expectations.

What kind of advertising do you do?

I work mostly by word of mouth and social media.

What is your target market?

Anyone who serves real, unprocessed food.

What have some of your highlights been in running your business?

Seeing a staff member rise to the occasion. Sometimes things just go wrong, and it is very rewarding to see how some people just rise above and go that extra mile.

How important is social media and an online presence for your business?

Most of the clientele I have had has been via word of mouth, but I am planning to start private cooking classes again and that will rely quite heavily on social media.

How many people do you employ?

It is only me, for now.

Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?

I do, but it is still in its embryo stage. I can’t say much about expansion yet.

How did you acquire funding for the business?

Luckily, I have a supportive husband  and I don’t have huge overhead costs like rental, so it was quite easy to start. I just needed to get clients.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?

The moment you stop pushing and become complacent, it shows.

What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Gqeberha?

The market for chef consultants is not oversaturated in PE, and I don’t have to compete with huge established food consulting companies. As a negative, lots of PE-based restaurateurs do not see the value of an external consultant.

What do you say are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?

Determination,  ability to think out of the box, and more determination.

What do you say are the key traits of a successful employer?

Someone who empowers and upskills their staff. By doing that you are ensuring they can give the best to your client.

What do you wish people knew about your industry?

People romanticise restaurants and the food service industry. It is hard work and long hours.

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