I am obsessed with all things food. Whether it’s enjoying a great meal at my favourite restaurant, a gourmet experience in a foreign land, trying a new recipe at home or simply watching a television show exploring this topic.
I have in the past binge watched documentaries like Netflix’s Chef's Table. Beautifully shot, these documentaries take you on a fab food journey, exploring not just the cooking styles of world renowned Chefs but also what drives and motivates them. And then there’s the allure of reality cooking shows like MasterChef and the Great British Bake Off.
On a recent visit to Zimbabwe, where I was a speaker at a conference exploring all things digital, I got an opportunity to go behind the scenes of a local television cooking show.
Jip, myself and a group of other conference delegates, including radio personalities, social media influencers and business leaders, cracked an invite to the set of “Battle of the Chefs”, a local food show!
It was a pleasant surprise that the conference organisers sprang on us.My excitement levels went through the roof, as we were also amongst the first guests to be served dinner on set. We were hosted by the founder of the show, Joseph Bunga and his wife, Veronica.
Similar to other reality shows of its kind, Battle of the Chefs (BOTC) sees a host of Chefs face a series of cooking challenges over the space of a few weeks. Their work is critiqued by a team of judges, until one Chef emerges as the winner.
BOTC is currently in its third season and is one of Zimbabwe’s most popular local productions. This is due in no small way to the driving force that is Joseph Bunga, whose tenacity is infectious. He shared his journey with us and it’s been an uphill haul, getting BOTC off the ground and on air these past few years.
Some of his struggles included securing sponsorship for the show and learning the exacting technical requirements that are needed to make great television. Joseph though doesn’t seem to understand the word NO. Now, he plans to take the show to other African cities.
Many, many, on set photos later and we were finally ready for dinner. The menu for the night was especially prepared by Tafadzwa Anifasi, aka De Ankarra Chef.
He was the first winner of BOTC and currently features as a judge. De Ankarra Chef’s food can be described as fusion, drawing on inspiration from his travels but with a focus on using, fresh local produce.
Starters were a surprise of flavours: gnocchi, peanut sauce and wilted pumpkin leaves. The peanut sauce was delicate - just a hint of flavor. I didn’t expect the combination to work so well.
The star of his menu was the grilled chicken and shiro sauce. The chicken was well cooked and oh so moist. The shiro sauce, an Ethiopian staple (usually a stew), is made up of chickpea, garlic and berbere spice. It was not too spicy and is an idea I am going to borrow, for the next time I make grilled chicken and need a warming, spicy sauce!
Dessert included malva pudding, made by Veronica Bunga, OMG!
Originating in South Africa, this sticky treat consists of sponge and jam, usually served warm and smothered in custard. Veronica’s pudding was perfection and one of the best malva puddings I have ever had!
Q & A with Chef Tafadzwa Anifasi, aka De Ankarra Chef
Q. When did you start your journey toward becoming a Chef?
A. My journey into cooking started when I was doing my degree in Finance. One day I saw an aunt frying an egg, sunny side up. She was lathering the egg with the oil. That was an AHA moment. Cooking is more than just putting ingredients in a pot and allowing heat to do its thing. I haven't looked back since, it’s been 11 years of cooking.
Q. What prompted you to enter Battle of the Chefs Season 1?
A. I actually entered Battle of the Chefs by mistake or shall I say by fate? My cousin had entered and her friend pulled out at the last minute, so she asked me to join her on the show. We managed to win the first season of BOTC.
Q. Did you think you would win?
A. I honestly didn’t expect to win. I didn’t take it seriously until the semifinals (little secret, I felt we lost that round) once we did win though it gave me confidence in my cooking. We had defeated a seasoned Chef and my cooking was judged by some of the best Chefs not only in Zimbabwe but in the world.
Q. As winning the title had any direct benefits to your career?
A. Absolutely! BOTC helped me to broaden my culinary horizons.
I’m also now involved in television production. I have already produced a season of my own show called Home Made with De Ankarra Chef. I credit BOTC show producer Joseph Bunga, for this.
Q. Where can patrons enjoy your cooking?
A. For now I’m working as a private Chef so they can enjoy my cooking in the comfort of their own homes or at a catered event. I’m also involved in several pop up restaurant events which I’m hoping to take regional then Africa wide.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. I’m planning to travel across Africa, learning more about traditional dishes which I will then give add my own take on. I would like to document this journey and turn it into a television show. I am also looking forward to collaborating with other African Chefs. I want to champion African food as I believe Africa is the next food frontier.
I have no doubt that we will be hearing more from De Ankarra Chef.
Despite sitting on the set of a reality television show, we couldn’t have enjoyed better Zimbabwean hospitality. The food, the company, the conversation made for a very memorable night.
And I can now tick off my bucket list:
Visiting the set of a cooking show √
Dinner on the set of a cooking show √
Pretending to be a judge on a reality cooking show √