To be honest, I was quite frustrated by photos of delicious dishes flooding our Facebook and Instagram feeds during the last lockdowns.
It’s not because I don’t love food but these people really challenged my culinary skills. So, recently I got a chance to experience the benefits of a professional chef’s kitchen when Michelle Phetlhe hosted us at her Chellz Kitchen.
Chellz Kitchen is a platform for individuals who want to explore their culinary intrigue to fully engage with their recessive or unexplored kitchen skills.
My colleague, Phatsimo Kapeng and I arrived a little late at Chellz Kitchen in Phakalane and we found Phetlhe and four other women already into it.
As I put on the apron my co-chef, Phetlhe immediately shot instructions, for me to prepare a list of ingredients.
These included garam masala, curry powder, ground cumin, crushed red pepper and smoked paprika amongst others.
These were not the kind of ingredients I was accustomed to, (nna ke motho le chilli bite le letswai), I mused mischievously to myself.
I can proudly declare that we made quite a bright and vibrant dish in Lentils Dal. Considering that I don’t have patience for the kitchen, this was really a test for me.
I felt somewhat disenchanted as Kapeng snapped away with his camera, while I was prepared the food that he was going to stuff his face with!
The women, or should I say, chefs prepared a simple naan next to Lentils Dal as they shared their experiences. They talked about how making a simple naan was more like preparing a traditional phaphatha because you don’t add any oil in the pan.
I realised that I was honing my cooking skills as I use a bottle of wine to roll the dough-disk. Let me not bore you with the finer details, but inform you that in the end, I prepared the best Lentis Dal. Everyone enjoyed it though I was even accused of not following the instructions.
But I could not have done it without my co-chef with her live instruction and feedback.
Cooking everyday feels like a chore but I didn’t feel like that at Chellz Kitchen. We then prepared the last dish and I specifically loved this one because there was meat! The dish was steak, creamy mash and Mexican corn and I must confess, this had incredible flavours with cooking techniques put in. I liked the fact that when I was preparing the sauce for the Mexican corn, I used easily available ingredients like Nola mayonnaise Sprig of Parsley, Cayenne pepper, Feta cheese, and red pepper flakes. As I brushed the sauce onto the corn it felt like I was painting. After roasting the corn for 35 minutes wrapped in a foil at 180°, I then proceeded to pat the steak dry with paper towels.
Next it was continuous cooking and flipping in the pan for a total of four minutes before adding the butter, and herbs. It turned out beautifully from the way, if I say so myself, as it looked just as good as it tasted. With the creamy mash as a scenic addition to my plate, I finally found something to post on my personal social media statuses just like everybody
Phetlhe told Arts & Culture that Chellz Kitchen was brought about by social media engagement from individuals who viewed her food posts.
“They began to ask how they could taste the food andif I planned selling food. One of the principles at my marketing and eventing business, ESTeRES is personal development. I therefore opted to host classes as opposed to selling food. Our sessions are made up of five individuals. They are very intimate allowing for us to observe all COVID-19 protocols,” she revealed.
Describing what happens in a Chellz Kitchen session, Phetlhe said their Saturday mornings begin at 6am with the group commencing with five minutes of light chatter over welcome drinks, catching up on current affairs and general introduction for first timers.
“We then gravitate to our designated stations in the kitchen where each individual finds a print-out of recipes for the day.
A volunteer is asked to read out the recipe and I then give a brief introduction on the dish, origins and what it pairs with etc. The next step for participants is collecting required ingredients that are set up at separate stations. It’s an interactive and engaging exercise right from the start, with back and forth communication ensuring everyone has everything on the list, which ultimately fosters teamwork and encouragement all around,” she stated.
Phetlhe added that as they start cooking in a synchronised manner each participant follows their notes while checking in with the team. She said with every session there is ample networking, laughs, and personal development in the kitchen.
“Food has always been a great catalyst in bringing people together. There have been a lot of personal development testimonies and that is exactly what these sessions were targeting; helping individuals tap into their inner creative culinary spark with hopes for it to permeate in other aspects of their lives,” she said.
Asked whether Chellz Kitchen might end up on the screen, Phetlhe said even they do intend to have a show because even prior to the inception of Chellz Kitchen classes, there had been a few concepts in the pipeline including an ebook. In terms of challenges, Phetlhe said the main challenge is securing sponsorship, as COVID-19 has hit all companies hard so marketing budgets are either frozen or cut.
Chellz Kitchen partners include, Ultra Mel, Danone, Pepsi, Hinds Spice, NOLA Mayonnaise, Laager Rooibos, Lengau Wines, Durban Hills, Fleur Du Cap, Pongracz and BranDeck.