From girl-next-door to cookbook author: Liziwe Matloha on reaching your dreams

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From girl-next-door to cookbook author: Liziwe Matloha on reaching your dreams

Respected recipe developer and editor Liziwe Matloha (@dinneratmatlohas) has a cookbook of her own, coming out this month. She took some time to chat to us about how she wrote a cookbook, where her inspiration comes from and how she manages to get so much done in one day.

Let’s start with a little introduction. Where did you grow up? Was food a big part of your childhood?

I grew up in the rural areas of Potchefstroom in the North West, in a place called Boskop. Food actually wasn’t such a big part of my childhood, as we couldn’t afford any lavish ingredients. My dad had a vegetable garden with almost every vegetable you could think of, we also had local farmers supplying milk to us and this was a big part of making or preparing our meals.

What are some of your earliest food memories?

I remember Sundays were very special because we would have to prepare a really big feast because my family would gather at home after church and enjoy a delicious seven-colours meal prepared by me and my sisters. This gathering would include relatives, and even some church members. Preparing the meal was always exciting to me. I still carry on the tradition with my own family. On Sundays we cook special meals.

When did you decide that cooking was something you wanted to do? What led you into the food industry?

I studied media and went to work in the media industry but there was always this void in my life. I was good at what I did but I never felt fulfilled and happy. It felt like I was destined for something bigger and better. I always felt like it was just a job and that weighed heavily on me. I just wanted to do something that would make me feel happy and loved. I knew I was happy when cooking or tasting great food, so I knew I had to follow my heart.

What steps did you take to get into the industry?

I started as a caterer because I loved cooking and I found it was an easier way to start cooking for people and making a living out of it. But I didn’t enjoy some of the things that go with mass catering. I chose to focus on my strength and my passion, which is food and cooking. I went to study cooking and food preparation at Capsicum Culinary School to develop and enhance my skills and knowledge. I graduated with a diploma and went for industrial training at hotel restaurants and catering companies to develop my skills. I then started hosting cooking class and everything fell into its place.

Your cookbook, Dinner at Matloha’s, comes out this month. Congratulations! Can you tell us a little about it?

I wrote my book in 2016. In fact, I wrote or compiled a couple of cookbooks, but I didn’t know how to actually put together a cookbook. I was not a good writer, but I would create and develop recipes every day, test them with the cooking class and store them away. My classes became popular and I realised I could not cover some areas where my classes are needed. But I could compile recipes and send them out to the world for everyone to access in the form of a book and that’s when the cookbook idea hit me. I struggled for a while to find a publisher who was interested – I’m just a girl next door with a dream, so it took me a while!

What was your inspiration for writing it?

People started asking me for my recipes in my classes. After every class, we share images of the experience and of the food on social media platforms. People became very interested. Those who lived close by came to the classes, but about those who couldn’t lost out. That’s when it hit me.

What kind of recipes does it include? What are some recipes close to your heart?

Easy recipes but with great quality and flavours for a South African palate, with a modern twist, and recipes that are great for families. They aren’t complicated and use readily available ingredients and pantry staples. One of my favourite recipes is motogo wa ting (sour porridge). Growing up, this was served as breakfast every single day, and it is one of the dishes that just takes me back. I have these memories of my mom and dad, my siblings, all living under the same roof, sitting around the kitchen enjoying a morning chat over breakfast. It’s one of those that I would never stop eating even if I became the wealthiest tycoon! The preserved guavas are another one, this recipe is from my mother-in-law. I can cook many dishes but the struggle to make preserved fruit. She took her time to share and guide me through each step with lots of love and support. I feel indebted. This is one of those legacy recipes. Lastly, the pickled carrot, green bean and red onion salad. This was one of my first creations while I still lived at home. I’ve perfected it over the years. It’s humbling to me to see it in this book; I’ve really come far with cooking.

What are some of your favourite local ingredients to work with? How do you like to use them?

One of my favourite local ingredients is biltong. We add it to soup, salad and snacks. Amasi is also such a great product and is often slightly overlooked. It’s so versatile, I use it in almost every method of cooking, from stews to bakes and salads. It can easily replace expensive ingredients, it can be used instead of yoghurt, cream and some soft cheeses. It’s just so versatile.

What advice would you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps in the food industry?

Never be deterred. Keep your eyes fixed on your goals and dreams. Work hard, stay focused and remain determined no matter what. Knock on those doors for help and always remember to pray, anything is possible.

Who else in the industry inspires you?

So many, and some have even became dear friends. Mogau Seshoene, Zola Nene, Zanele van Zyl, Lebo (the funny chef), Chef Nti, the list is endless. Young, successful, beautiful, black women, humble but reaching for their goals, changing the game one step at a time. They make me feel it’s possible for someone like me to reach the sky.

You’ve done some amazing things in your career, what else have been some highlights for you?

Becoming the Drum Food Ambassador in 2019/2020 was one of my highlights. Perhaps I’m still the reigning ambassador because there hasn’t been one since me! That competition opened so many doors for me. Also being an ambassador for First Choice, the brand that started with me when I was still new in this game and gave me a platform and opportunity. And becoming a recipe developer for some amazing reputable food brands. I recently edited True Love Food, which is hitting the shelves this month.

What’s a regular day for you at the moment? What else are you working on that we should look out for?

It’s really unpredictable. I’m a mom of three so part of my routine is to collect my kids from school and help them with homework as much as I can. There might be brand meetings that I have with short projects that I work on. There’s also recipe development and recipe testing for brands and magazines. Besides working with one of the prominent magazines, my next big project will be a TV show. It’s still early days but I’m positive it will happen soon.

To keep up with Liziwe, follow her on Instagram, and look out for her book, Dinner at Matloha’s, which lands on shelves in April 2021.

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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