Any aspiring, young chef will resonate with the joy Andiswa Mqedlana experienced when she received an email that read: Dear Andiswa, I’m happy to write to you with the news that you have been selected to receive one of this year’s Young Chefs’ Grants to attend the 2020 Oxford Food Symposium. Congratulations!
“I can’t say this is a dream come true because I never thought I’d reach this level so soon in my career,” she says, still reeling with excitement. “When I enrolled at Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine, I committed to doing my ultimate best, and to go for every opportunity offered. I can hardly believe what has happened.”
As it turns out, due to Covid-19, the symposium will be convened electronically, and not as usual in Oxford in England. This will be an adjustment for organisers and participants but, undeterred, Andiswa will not let this opportunity pass her by. The full symposium experience is now scheduled for 2021 when she will join other participants at St Catherine’s College in Oxford.
“That means I’ll get two chances,” she says with youthful eagerness.
Andiswa admits to feeling nervous about flying to an unknown destination but, like other challenges she has experienced, she says that her nerves will come and go, but they will never prevent her from becoming a successful businesswoman.
“This is not a time to allow nerves to take charge,” she tells with philosophical enthusiasm. “I’m going to learn, share and experience so that I can achieve my goal to develop within the culinary industry and, one day, I hope to look back with pride at the people I have impacted.”
The Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery exists to celebrate, explore and share food research by scholars, enthusiastic amateurs, writers and chefs from around the world. This year the focus is on herbs and spices. It’s a privilege to know that world-renowned foodie, Harold McGee, was on the selection panel. He is the author of many books and his interests included the chemistry of food and cooking, and the science of everyday life. He has worked alongside some of world’s most innovative chefs, including Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal. Andiswa will have the honour to work alongside him.
After completing the food and wine course at Jackie Cameron’s school, Andiswa did her internship at Hartford House in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, before taking up the position of managing chef of the School Restaurant, an eatery that is part of the School Outlet at Jackie’s institution. This she has been running with the confidence and trustworthiness expected of graduates from this school.
“We are all so very excited for – and proud of – Andiswa,” says Jackie, owner of the KwaZulu-Natal-based, Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine, and author of Jackie Cameron Cooks at Home (Penguin Random House South Africa) as well as Baking with Jackie Cameron, published by Struik Lifestyle, an imprint of Penguin Random House South Africa.
Jackie is the recipient of many awards, so she can identify with Andiswa’s happiness and share her overwhelming excitement.
“Andiswa’s success illustrates the rewards perseverance offers,” states Jackie, with confidence. “We have a strict regime at the school and that’s the reason our students win awards, and the reason we can guarantee a placement once they have completed the course.”