Chef Zacharia Maseko first started his culinary journey at the Wild Coast Sun 34 years ago, and was appointed as the executive chef on the 1st of October. “I liked cooking as a child but until I arrived at the Wild Coast Sun, I didn’t think I could make a career out of it,” Maseko said. “I used to cook with my mother, things like steam bread and samp and beans, but culturally, men did not belong in the kitchen.”
He soon turned this idea on its head as his career took shape. “In 1988 I became a kitchen handler as management could see I had a passion for the kitchen.”
In 1994, Sun International sponsored his three-year Catering Management Diploma at the Durban Institute of Technology (Now Durban University of Technology). Since graduating, Maseko has worked his way around the kitchen, first as demi chef and then as the relief chef, learning the ropes of the full kitchen and reporting to a sous chef, before becoming one himself. His last role was executive sous chef, a position he held for eight years.
Along with Chico’s, the main restaurant and Driftwood, the a la carte restaurant, Maseko is also in charge of food in banqueting, Prive, and main casino floor as well as the golf club.
In the past few years, he believes there has been an increased focus on sustainability and healthy eating, saying more people are looking for plant based foods instead of meat and are keen to know more about the source of their meal, such as how it was grown or reared and transported.
“I am passionate about sustainability and seasonality. The freshest, highest quality in-season ingredients elevate dishes from ordinary to world class.” And when it comes to fresh, the kitchens at the Wild Coast Sun are spoiled for choice with an expansive on-site garden that delivers fresh vegetables and herbs right to their chopping blocks. Surplus vegetables are also sent to local soup kitchens which provide meals for about 900 school children.
While his recent promotion is a feather in his cap, Maseko recalls his proudest moment as being when he was a sous chef, and, along with his team, was called in for a standing ovation after a Valentine’s Day function with several VIP guests.
He is inspired by the Auguste Escoffier, but closer to home he credits three chefs he has worked with who have had a profound influence on him and have contributed to his growth – Johan Szabo, Gary Hastings and Chris Reedoy. “They loved what they were doing and were passionate about it.”