13 Jul A delicious catch up with Nelson Mandela’s personal chef Xolisa Ndoyiya
PICTURED ABOVE: Xolisa Ndoyiya, Nelson Mandela’s former personal chef for 18 years, at the launch of her cookbook,Ukutya Kwasekhaya: Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen, in 2012 . Image courtesy of Nelson Mandela Foundation/Flow Communications]
Xolisa Ndoyiya, Nelson Mandela’s former personal chef for 18 years, at the launch of her cookbook,Ukutya Kwasekhaya: Tastes from Nelson Mandela’s Kitchen, in 2012 . Image courtesy of Nelson Mandela Foundation/Flow Communications]
We’re weeks away from the highly-anticipated opening of Sanctuary Mandela, once the home of Nelson Mandela and now a luxury boutique accommodation with nine curated rooms in Johannesburg. One of the key attractions is the onsite restaurant which will serve dishes based on Madiba’s favourite meals, as created by his personal chef Xolisa Ndoyiya.
We sat down (virtually) with Xolisa for a delicious catch-up and to get a sneak peek at what awaits guests at Sanctuary Mandela.
Why is it important for you to be involved with the Sanctuary Mandela experience?
Xolisa: It is important for me to ensure that his legacy continues in the truest sense. I served Madiba in this house and was part of many memories and historical moments which happened here and therefore I feel it is important for me to be involved in the Sanctuary Mandela experience. As it is a place of reflection, I feel that I can add a piece of information for the legacy to continue.
Would you please share Tata Madiba’s philosophy about food and how to use it to engage with other people?
Xolisa: Tata believed that food should be shared amongst all, and his dining table was a place to comfort people. It was not a place for formal dining but rather a place for family and friends, as well as business discussions but most of all enjoying everyone’s company.
He used to call me on short notice to notify me that there would be extra guests for breakfast. He did not believe that business could be conducted on an empty stomach so he would invite important businesspeople to raise funds for education. Afterwards he would call me over and say, “I do not take compliments, please could you say thank you to Xoli instead”.
Once his guests have left, he would tell me that my food raised ‘X’ amount for children’s education. He was very transparent in that he shared with me when and how much funds were raised for the children’s education. It is not often that your boss would share intimate details of information, it meant to me that he was a loyal person and very humble.
What is your fondest memory of Tata Madiba?
Xolisa: Tata had a big heart, the love he had was for everyone. It was not just for family; he had it open to the world. He would always remind us that it was not about him, we were all doing the great things, it was a collective effort, and he was just a part of it.
What can guests expect from their dining experience at Sanctuary Mandela?
Xolisa: The menu is created around dishes that I made for Madiba. Inspiration has been derived from my book, with each dish re-created into a modern version. Most of the dishes have an anecdote of a time I spent cooking for Madiba.
What was his favourite meal and how has it been incorporated into the menu?
Xolisa: His favourite meal was Oxtail.We have incorporated the flavour profile of the Oxtail stew I used to make and re-created it into a pasta starter dish.
Tell us about a special anecdote of any of the dishes available on the menu?
Xolisa: On our current menu we will be serving soft porridge “isidudu” but for 18 years I served Tata stiff porridge, “Umqa”, for breakfast. It is a stiffer version of crumbly porridge. I had to serve him one dessert spoonful with sultana, raisins, nuts and hot milk.
This he had every morning as he believed it would keep his stomach full for the whole day. In the 18th year,he said that he honoured his mother enough and that is when he diverted to eating Kellogg’s Frosties for breakfast.
It was a big thing for him personally: he could not say goodbye to his mother when she passed on and food meant a huge deal in his life. He ate this pap because his mother made it for him as a small boy and as he grew older he honoured her memory by having it every morning.