After receiving hundreds of entries, SA Chefs has chosen Hope Mdakane as the winner of its competition run in conjunction with The Festive Vegan & Plant Powered Show.

The contest was open to all chefs and cooks residing in South Africa, aged 28 and younger, who were invited to submit their best vegan dish via a 30 second video as well as a recipe using vegan-only products with a list of ingredients and the cooking method.

The panel of judges selected a top 10, who were then asked to submit a demo. It was Hope Mdakane who came out tops, and the 25-year-old Gauteng-based chef from Soweto will now share a visual stage with top international and local chefs.

Here, Mdakane, who is currently based at the Saxon Boutique Hotel & Villas, tells us more about himself, his winning dish and his plans for the future.

When and how did you love for cooking start? My love for cooking started when I was a child at the age of about 11. I would watch my grandmother and mother whenever they would cook and also ask for help if ever, they needed it. Another special thing which got me into cooking was how my grandmother had a little herb garden where she would plant certain herbs which we used in the cooking and also for medicinal purposes. This is also where my passion for natural, home grown produce began.

Did you attend a culinary school? I studied at HTA School of Culinary Arts in Gauteng and graduated in 2015 with a one-year certificate and again in 2018 with a three-year apprenticeship diploma

Tell us about your winning dish. What inspired it? My dish is a vegan entremet (dessert). It was inspired by my grandmother who used to make us trifle which brought us together as a family. I took a dish I love and used the culinary skills I have learned and developed to make something new and different.

What are your thoughts on veganism? It is a movement that I feel strongly about, due to the sustainable nature of the lifestyle. There are vast health benefits in following diets that are predominantly or entirely plant based and I am now developing my knowledge and understanding of vegan diets and the quality varieties that can be produced to ensure a superior dining experience without the use of animal-based products. It also keeps the ever-evolving world of food and food production interesting and exciting, as we are forced to think of new ways of making classic and traditional dishes vegan friendly.

What five things are always in your fridge or pantry at home? Salt and pepper, thyme, garlic, onion and coconut oil. With these ingredients, you have the foundation to prepare almost anything and create some magical flavours and textures.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? I would really like to grow and develop my skills and knowledge in the culinary world. I would love to travel and gain more international knowledge and expand on those trends and to bring this all back home to create a unique South African, sustainable, culinary experience.

Tickets for the FVPPS are now available from Quicket

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