Not only is she able to cook up a storm in the kitchen with all the necessary appliances at hand, but The Maslow’s breakfast Chef de Partie, Wenzokuhle Mandiwana, is proving to the entire country that she can do equally well ooutdoors on an open fire as she shows off her prowess in the popular show, The Ultimate Braai Master.
This South African born reality cooking show celebrates South Africa’s favourite pastime – braaing. All the best braaiers in the country face one another in tough challenges set in the country’s most beautiful landscapes and the winner leaves with the Ultimate Braai Master crown.
When the love for cooking and hunger to be creative with food flows through your veins, as is the case with Wenzokhule, living up to the show’s motto “Rain, wind or shine – we braai” is easily taken in your stride.
The Ultimate Braai Master is the perfect platform for Wenzokuhle and her co-chef, team mate and best friend, also an employee of Sun International, to showcase their excellent culinary skills and passion. A colleague of theirs had participated in The Ultimate Braai Master the previous year and, after her team got eliminated in the very early stages of the show, Wenzokuhle (now known to South Africans as UBM6, Sexy Chef) and her team mate Nonkosi Vellem who works for Time Square in Menlyn Maine, thought they should give it a shot.
“We applied while sitting in the canteen one day and got called for a cook-off. It was merely about the fun and just experiencing the whole thing but we made it through to the next round, and the next and the next. When we realized how far we had gotten in the competition, it dawned on us that we might just have some talent,” she smiles.
“Cooking is my calling,” she says. “My love for food and my mom’s cooking sparked this fire in me. There was a time when I felt her cooking was just so boring and I literally stopped eating dinner at home, trying to figure out ways she could cook chicken or any other protein differently.”
Her mother let her be and allowed her to experiment in the kitchen.
“At first I thought it was just a phase that would pass but when I got to grade 9 and we had to choose subjects for grade 10, I picked Consumer Studies and I’ve been at it since then.”
This small town girl, born and raised in the East Rand in a place called Spruitview went to Germiston South Primary School and later to Germiston High School. She then went on to obtain her three year Diploma in Professional Cookery and Kitchen Management and also Food and Beverage Management at The International Hotel School in Sandton. “During that time I got an opportunity to work at The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Naples, Florida for six months as part of my in-service training,” she tells.
This, combined with her passion and seven years experience in the elite kitchens of The Maslow, have contributed to Wenzokuhle’s success on Ultimate Braai Master Season 6, anticipated to be the greatest season to date. However, in all her humble excitement, she says she still looks at the television and wonders; “Is that really me on one of South Africa’s most popular shows? It has really shown me that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.”
Week after week Wenzokuhe’s and Nonkosi, who she describes as a culinary mastermind, are tested on their cooking skills on an open fire and judged on their creativity. They are up against restaurant owners, other professional chefs and even international braai competitors. Yet, week after week they seem to blow the judges away with their braai abilities.
She believes this life changing experience on The Ultimate Braai Master will benefit her career by putting her name out there and showing the relevant people watching that she is capable and has what it takes to make it big. Naturally, Wenzokuhe laughs as she tells that her favourite part about the competition and every braai is eating the meat.
“That’s why I had a braai buddy to start the fires for us. I hate that part.”
“We are tremendously proud of Wenzokuhe and her team mate on Ultimate Braai Master. She is flying The Maslow’s flag high. We wish them every success for the rest of the series,” says The Maslow’s Executive Chef, Justin Jonah.