December 10 2013 Latest news:
Sunday, October 13, 2013
A South African Zulu who travelled nearly 6,000 miles to the UK in search of work and adventure has become the toast of the kitchens at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with the award of his NVQ in Hospitality.
Now 35-year old Bafana Mkatshwa is cooking up plans to spice up food for the hospital staff with a South African-themed food event at the QEH.
Baf, as he is known to colleagues, achieved his NVQ after two years of study at the College of West Anglia while working as a chef in the hospital kitchens. He originally joined the QEH three years ago as a kitchen porter but set his heart on making a career as a chef.
Before that he had worked at food production companies in the area where he used his additional skill in languages to increase his repertoire to 11 languages – including Polish and Lithuanian.
He said: “I am a Zulu but I have worked with so many people over the years that I never felt comfortable unless I could speak to them in their own language, so I made it my business to learn.”
A major turning point in his career came when he joined the QEH as a kitchen porter. He said: “When I came here I was doing a lot of things but what I really wanted to be was a chef. I wanted to improve myself and learn. That is what I set my mind on.”
To obtain his NVQ Baf has had to reach a required standard in all aspects of catering, including the business and planning side, in addition to developing his culinary skills.
When Baf and some friends arrived in the UK nearly 16 years ago they went first to Ipswich. He said: “In South Africa I lived in Johannesburg, which was very busy. We found that Ipswich was also too busy. What we really wanted was to be somewhere quieter, near the countryside.
“A friend who was already in King’s Lynn said we should come over – and we liked it here, although it was quiet. At first, where ever we went people would stop us and ask where we were from and what had made us come to King’s Lynn. Then people started inviting us to their homes. We made friends and started to feel at home.”
So how does our food compare to the dishes he might once have prepared back in South Africa? He said: “The food at home is very spicy. Very spicy. For example, over here you would boil cabbage. In South Africa we would fry it in a little olive oil and flavour it with chilli and curry.”
Baf is currently discussing with QEH head chef Stewart Nimmo the possibility of developing a South African-themed food event during 2014, to give staff the chance of sampling dishes from his homeland.
Since living here Baf has married and now has two children. So who does the cooking at home? He said: “My wife and I share it.” And favourite meal? “Roast chicken – with hot spices, of course.”