One-On-One With Celebrity Chef Zola Nene

SABC 3 is looking for the next foodie sensation as they launch their exciting new reality show The Taste Master. The series debuts on SABC 3 on Tuesday 12 November at 19h30 where judges Zola Nene and Gregory Czarnecki, alongside host Harmony Katulondi, set out to find the brand-new resident foodie on SABC 3’s popular variety show Afternoon Express. Throughout the series, the finalists will go head to head in a series of challenges which will test both their social and culinary skills as each week contestants are given the chop until the ultimate taste master remains.

Zola Nene is no stranger to the world of television. This celebrity chef and author is best known as the resident chef on the SABC 3 breakfast show Expresso. Zola understands the ins and outs of creating mouth-watering foods while having a knack for television. Zola is continuously aware of the camera while cooking – a track which makes her the perfect judge for the debut season of The Taste Master.

Ahead of the series’ premiere next week, Zola Nene opens up on her journey as a celebrity chef so far and why you should watch the debut season of The Taste Master:


Why do you think a show like ‘The Taste Master’ is so exciting?

It’s exciting because it gives someone an opportunity to be on a huge platform where they can share their passion for food with a large number of people. It’s an opportunity that so many people crave but never get so that’s something that makes the show special.

How has being the resident chef on Expresso made a difference in your career?

Being the resident chef on Expresso was my introduction into the TV industry. So, it gave me mass visibility. It was such an amazing experience to be part of such an innovative show with so many incredibly talented people. Working those very early morning hours also gave me a great work ethic. If I could survive those 3am wake ups and long hours, there’s nothing I can’t survive. The show also pushed me to deliver every single time and it’s helped shape me into who I am today.

What characteristics, besides being an impeccable foodie, does one need to kick-start a career in television as well?

I think authenticity is so important because it’s essentially what makes you unique. I think one needs to embrace who they are and be true to that. So many people try to be a character or pretend to be what they think people want them to be and that is unsustainable – especially if you want longevity in the TV industry. Just be uniquely you because that’s what viewers gravitate towards.

Where did your love affair with food begin?

I’ve always loved food. I grew up eating well because my gran was and my mom is a great cook. I remember always enjoying huge feasts at family gatherings and loved how the kitchen was always the hub of activity. I think their love for food, and great cooking skills, definitely rubbed off on me.

What is your go-to dish when having people over?

Honestly, I don’t have a go-to dish. I cook according to my mood (and cravings) at the time and that is always changing. So, if you come over for dinner at my place you’ll never know what you’re going to get.

You released your second cook book recently. What was that experience like for you?

I released my first cookbook, Simply Delicious, in February 2016 and my second cookbook, Simply Zola, in October 2018 and it has been a dream come true. Being a cookbook author has been an amazing experience and I am so grateful that people have loved my books. They’re both international award-winning books and seeing people respond so well to them has been amazing. I am so proud of both of them.

Why do you think you’ve become a culinary role model for so many around the country and seeing so many people try out your recipes?

I’m so humbled that people see me as a role model. It is an honour to be thought of as such. I think that what people appreciate most about my recipes is the fact that they are accessible and simple. My entire food philosophy is all about teaching people how to create delicious dishes that are simple to create and I think that resonates with people.

What advice would you give to an up-and-coming foodie who would like to expand their knowledge and become a chef one day?

My advice would be to always keep learning, always keep tasting and always keep cooking. Live your passion out loud and never give up.

Besides for food, what other passions do you have?

Travel is my other big passion. I love to travel and explore this beautiful world we live in and I hope to do a lot more travelling in my lifetime.

Who is Zola Nene out of the kitchen?

I’m exactly the same in and out of the kitchen. I know that seems like a boring answer but honestly, it’s the truth. My personality in the kitchen is exactly how I am outside the kitchen too.

What do you have up your sleeve for 2020?

I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to tell people what I have planned. I’d rather just do it and show people. But, I can tell you that I’ve got some awesome things planned for 2020 so you’ll just have to wait and see what I’m cooking up.

The Taste Master premieres on 12th November 2019 at 19h30 on SABC 3.