By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
The idea of pap and morogo, a popular dish in South Africa among the black community being appreciated on a global scale is unthinkable, whichever way you look at it. Of course this is a popular dish many Africans grew up enjoying, and till this day it can make for a good meal, especially when fused with other ingredients. But triumphing at a prestigious international culinary competition is an achievement that should male chefs working in this space in South Africa proud. A well train ed and innovative chef has the ability to turn this corn based food stuff into something enjoyable and full of flavor. But preparation is as good as good as the presentation of the dish.
If You are still thinking that a dish of pap and morogo can only be appreciated by Africans only during this day and age, think again because this corn based dish, fused other ingredients from South Africa has just made history. The South African Junior Chefs, a category of the South African Chef’s Association has won big time in far away Dubai, where it took a silver award in the African Culinary Cup competition, becoming number three in this fiercely fought for culinary competition. This is a competition where the best chefs from the continent and beyond compete for the taste buds of the judges, themselves global influencers in the food business and how food is prepared in the kitchen and served to hungry customers. And when you think of it, this is no small matter, the food business because that is what people take to live and exist literally.
Well known culinary artist, Chef Siya Kobo with his team of four young chefs on June 2, 2022, walked away with a silver medal. While this is a big achievement for South African cuisine in general, this should rank as a moral boost for Chef Siya personally.
You see in culinary circles, Chef Siya is known for his passion for promoting indigenous dishes in mainstream fine dining experiences.
“The competition was tough, and when we were called on to that stage, we were as excited as we were relieved. For me the promotion of indigenous cuisine that is distinctly South African is important, and I was deliberate in taking corn and morogo to that level of culinary art competition, to introduce the world to the richness and diversity of South African culture as represented by indigenous cuisine. Cuisine is not just food, it is in fact a story about a people. Through our food we are telling the story of who we are as South Africans,” Chef Siya told CITYLIFE/ARTS in an interview conducted in Maboneng this week, a few days after he and his team landed at OR Tambo International Airport, coming back from the competition.
A passionate chef when it comes to promoting African cuisine as part of the fine dining experience in culinary circles, Chef Siya feels that it is high time that a curriculum which is centred on African cuisine is introduced at culinary schools in the country. African cuisine has a rich history.
“For example corn was introduced here in 1600 by the Portuguese, but then what happened is that as Africans we took it further over the decades, adding several layers to it, a number of other ingredients to make it such a rich dish that it is today. In other words we took corn, which was foreign to us and developed it to our own tastes and sophistication, and that is how rich our cuisine history is. I am a person who is passionate about this history and I always experiment with African ingredients in making my dishes, and so far the response has been amazing. For example, I can take pap, and prepare it in a away that you will not believe this is the pap you know with regards to presentation and the preparation method. But the flavor will remain authentically the same,” he pointed out.
For this leg of this competition, Chef Siya had only less than two months to mentor and work with the young chefs selected from different parts of the country.
“It was a challenge because we did not have much time when I was called to prevail by the South African Chefs Association director of competitions. However I took these young chefs through the process of training, work-shopping and cooking at the University of Johannesburg Culinary school. It was such a great experience for the young chefs because all of them, except one, for example had not travelled out of South Africa. They therefore found the experience quite enriching,” said Chef Siya.
The well known chef explained that the rules of the competition were that each country came up with their own ingredients, while chicken was the main common ingredient. For him, the choice for South African ingredients to take to Dubai was a simple matter – simple corn and morogo that was of course creatively fused with other indigenous ingredients to create the dish that did the trick with the judges, and that won them the silver medal.