Sushi is a passion for Chef Handsome Ndlovu, the sushi chef at Sun International’s The Maslow in Sandton. Born and bred in Nyanyadu in KwaZulu-Natal, Chef Ndlovu has carved a niche for himself in this specialist field of culinary arts.

He has always had an interest in food and its impact on health. After school, when he was 19, he was taken under the wing of a Japanese Master Chef, Arata Koga at Licontro Italian Restaurant in Rosebank. He started at the very beginning, doing the basics of sushi preparation such as cooking the rice and cutting the fish. He took immense pride in his work and was thrilled at the opportunity to learn the fine art of making sushi. It took him three years of training before he felt confident about his capabilities.

“I had a lot to learn and I was delighted at being given the chance to learn from the very best. Sushi is a culinary art and it requires skill, patience and practice,” says Ndlovu.

After completing his training, he went on to work at several restaurants and hotels in Cape Town, Sandton and Stellenbosch where he was exposed to other cuisines and honed his expertise. However, sushi is where his heart lies and when he got the chance to work at the mobile sushi bar at The Maslow’s up market Lacuna Bistro he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. The mobile sushi bar is called U.Mai which means “delicious” in Japanese. Sushi is prepared fresh in full view of guests who are able to enjoy pairing their favourite sushi pieces with designer cocktails, wine or bubbly.

He finds his work immensely rewarding; “Being a sushi chef is not child’s play. Sushi is a delicate art form and once you are specialized in this field, you can really go places; anywhere in the world. I enjoy being in the middle of the action where I can actually see our guests enjoying their sushi.”

The strict discipline of the mentors he has worked with over the years has rubbed off on him. “My pet hate in the kitchen is mess. A clean kitchen is not a nice to have, and it’s not only about food safety. It is about having a clear, uncluttered and clean space to work. My motto is clean as you go,” he says.

His advice to young people considering a career in the hospitality industry is: “Life only changes when you are committed more to seeing your dreams become a reality than your comfort zone. You have to take chances and you also cannot be afraid to learn and take advice. It is also important to have patience with all things, especially yourself.

“Working in a kitchen requires hard work, discipline and passion. There is a huge stress factor in this line of business and you have to keep your head about you. It’s very special people who are able to succeed in this line of work,” says Ndlovu.

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