I posed a few questions to Mel about her journey from Africa to Australia to find out how she ended up here in our lovely Brisbane city. Mel now runs Vanilla Zulu Culinary Adventures- a successful (and fun!) cooking school as I can attest.
Why and when did you come to Australia?
I arrived in gorgeous Australia on the 22nd February 2008, after two very long years of waiting for our visas to be approved! We had had too many close calls in a very violent Africa so decided to bring our two gorgeous children to the most wonderful place on earth... Australia!
Why did you choose Brisbane or did it choose you?
I think Brisbane chose us. As a farm girl I love the laid back attitudes, the friendly people, the beautiful surrounds and the perfect climate. In South Africa they refer to Brisbane as 'Durban without the Death!'. Same climate as Durban but you're not as likely to get hijacked, killed or attacked. It seems a world away now, living in constant fear like that.
How did you get started in the food world?
I have always grown up in very remote places as my father was a farmer when we immigrated to South Africa from Zimbabwe, so I spent a lot of time on my own growing up as a child. My only source of entertainment was cooking and experimenting and using my family as very willing tasters for my creations. There were no shopping malls where I grew up, some farms being 100's of kilometres from the smallest town. My parents bought me my first recipe book as a four year old (which I still have) and my older brother would read the recipes out to me before I could read and I would cook. The first thing I ever made was a loaf of brown bread...and I forgot the salt! My parents still ate it, bless them!
Did you always have a passion for food?
Yes!! I am always hungry so I am always thinking about the next meal. It's my biggest passion in life apart from my two amazing sons. I always get asked if I get tired of cooking. How could I? There is always some other amazing recipe or ingredient to try!
When and why did you decide that a cooking school was the best way to showcase your food passions?
I started my first cooking school in Durban back in 2002 when 'hobby cooking' or 'domestic cuisine' was still in its infancy. I quit a perfectly good job and converted a granny flat into a cooking studio, my friends and my ex-boss thought I was crazy but I followed my passion and well, the rest is history!
What training did you have?
I did three years at ML Sultan Hotel School in Durban
What are your plans for the future?
I am planning to publish my first recipe book very soon, it's all typed up and tested, now I just need a few sponsors to help me complete it! I would love my own cooking show, with a difference, watch this space...