Rafu’s leap of faith from rural EC to first place in cooking competition

Chef David Higgs and 'Cooking for a Cause' season 2 winner Kholiwe Rafu
SIZZLING STYLE: Chef David Higgs and 'Cooking for a Cause' season 2 winner Kholiwe Rafu
Image: Supplied

When Eastern Cape-born foodie Kholiwe Rafu, 30, was crowned winner of the second season of Cooking for a Cause, she was reminded of the perks of believing in oneself.

Born in rural Matatiele, the Johannesburg-based foodie took a leap of faith and entered her first-ever cooking competition, putting her skill to good use.

The show, streamed live on celebrity chef David Higgs’s  YouTube channel and hosted by TV anchor Marcelle Gordon, saw contestants make, cook and plate a dish in just 60 minutes with the ingredients chosen by Higgs.

The competition was a fundraiser for the Eat Out Restaurant Relief Fund, which helps keep restaurants in business so they can keep cooking for the needy. The restaurants produce meals for the old and frail, those who’ve lost jobs, and children who are no longer able to get their meals at school.

Weekend Post caught up with Rafu, who moved to Cape Town after matriculating in 2007 and eventually settled in Johannesburg.

Q: Tell us about your childhood in the Eastern Cape and how it influenced your love for cooking.

A: I recall having a happy childhood. We played amandwane (playing house) and everyone reminds me how that was my absolute favourite. I don’t recall how old I was when I cooked my first meal. It’s hard to say because growing up in the rural areas, we used to braai mielies on the fire and it was every man for himself.

Matatiele has very cold winters and it was not unusual to wake up to snow. My memory is of those winters where we would all gather in the kitchen because my grandmother had one of those old wood stoves.

Q: Did you go to culinary school? How did you perfect your cooking skills?

A: No, I did not go to culinary school — I love eating out and coming home to recreate my favourite restaurant dishes. That’s how my cooking has improved. And YouTube videos are my go-to for any recipe.

Q: What is your favourite dish to make?

A: I love making sauces. Whether it’s savoury or sweet, I just love how a brilliant sauce can elevate an otherwise pedestrian meal.

Q: Is cooking your side business or just something you do for pleasure?

A: Cooking is just something I enjoy. However, I’ve woken up to the idea that I can make money doing what I love. Now it’s a matter of finding my niche as there are many things people can do with food.

Q: How was your experience on Cooking for a Cause?

A: It was absolutely amazing! I’m glad I put myself out there like that. I met the most incredible people and I am so thrilled. It’s the moment I will always go back to as a reminder that believing in myself always pays off.

Rafus winning dish was hake coated in homemade garam masala, crispy za’atar bread with garlic, and a creamy mushroom pasta.

She shares most of her dishes on her Instagram food page @Kholiwe_cooks.

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