From a fashion design graduate studying day-to-day at the Durban University of Technology, to the youngest contestant on Masterchef South Africa, to the brand new junior food editor for DRUM magazine… Leozette Roode, contributor for Howl, chatted to Lugile Nhlanhla about the link between her two big passions, the challenges and changes she had to face during the past few months and what the future holds for this young fashion-foodie.
Leozette: You were a fashion design graduate, what made you enter Masterchef SA?
Lungile: I have always followed Masterchef from the UK and Australian version and have always loved cooking. I used to imagine myself in the situations and challenges so when the opportunity came about I just couldn’t pass it up.
Leozette: Were you at all threatened by the fact that you were the youngest contestant on the show?
Lungile: In the beginning it was very daunting and rather intimidating as there were people much older than myself and some of them tried to be very discouraging, but the further I got in the competition the more I realised that it was just words and that I had a so much more to offer to the competition and the challenges than just my age.
Leozette: What was your favourite challenge on the show?
Lungile: I personally enjoyed the Zanzibar challenge where we got to cook in the Market. It was such a wonderful environment to be exposed to and so refreshing to be able to cook in a different condition that is not the confines of the Masterchef kitchen. One really got to explore what the island was all about.
Leozette: What were your highest and lowest moments in Masterchef SA?
Lungile: My highest moment would be the pig tail challenge – it was one where I really had no clue what I was doing but somehow I came through the other side on top. It was an instance whereby I trusted my own instincts and it really paid off. The other high was getting to cook for Michel Roux Jnr. He is my food idol and I have looked up to him ever since I was about 12 years old. Realising who him and his father were, it was an absolute honour to be in his presence. My lowest moment probably was in the same episode where I just didn’t perform my best and another low was just watching the people that you ended up forming just great bonds and friendships with, leaving the competition.
Leozette: What is your favourite thing to cook?
Lungile: I love to cook fish as well as traditional African food and I always try to add my own twist to it. I just enjoy watching people eat and enjoy the food that I have prepared for them.
Leozette: You are now the Junior Food Editor of DRUM magazine. How did that happen?
Lungile: I was approached by DRUM as the position had become available and they wanted to know if I would be interested in applying for the job. I immediately agreed and started putting together a test shoot. I went through the interview process and clearly I was what they were looking for as they announced that I got the job.
Leozette: You have basically experienced three career changes in the past few months – from fashion design graduate to chef to journalist. How do you feel about this?
Lungile: I am enjoying every change in my life. It allows me to explore a new side to myself as well as grow in ways that I never knew were possible. Each change has brought with it its challenges, but has most importantly allow me to explore my own creativity and well as develop it at the same time.
Leozette: Did you ever think that you would end up in journalism? Have you had an interest in food journalism?
Lungile: I have never seen myself in journalism. Media, yes as fashion has media elements to it, but I just see this, as previously mentioned, as an extension of my creativity. Now I just have to shift my gears from fashion creative to food creative.
Leozette: How are you experiencing this new opportunity? Do you enjoy being a part of the DRUM family?
Lungile: I am loving every day that I get to be a part of the DRUM team. I was welcomed warmly and I dove straight into work. Everyone has been extremely supportive and patient with me as the whole team needs to work as one cohesive unit to make the magazine a success.
Leozette: What is the most exciting aspect of your new career?
Lungile: I love the fact that I don’t just write recipes, I get to cook them as well and I learn allot about food styling and photography. I’m learning so much from the photographers and they help me so much to understand what works and what doesn’t. I also love being able to work so closely together with them as they give me a better understanding into how the end product of the magazine comes into existence.
Leozette: Are you still going to pursue a career in fashion or in cooking or is food journalism where you see yourself in the future?
Lungile: I would like to still pursue and finish my studies in fashion to finally obtain my BTech degree, which I was busy with before Masterchef started and thereafter I would like to complete my MTech as well. I feel that I need to have the paperwork behind me in fashion as I would like to eventually be able to fuse the two together to make and create my “perfect” work environment.
Leozette: What is the next big step or big dream for Lungi Nhlanhla?
Lungile: I would love to continue within the media world as food offers so many avenues and translates into so many mediums – it’s not just about cooking in the kitchen. I want to explore how much further one can push media within the culinary industry.
Leozette: You are an inspiration to so many young South Africans. You must get a lot of fan mail and signature/photo requests?
Lugile: Yes, I do get stopped quite a bit and receive messages on twitter and my fan page on Facebook and I’ve really appreciated all the support that I have received. It keeps me driven and focused to keep bettering myself. Knowing that people are constantly supporting me as well wanting to learn from me, I like to look at them more as supporters rather than “fans”.
Leozette: What advise can you give young South Africans who have big dreams like you do?
Lungile: I would like to encourage them to pursue any dream that they have wholeheartedly and to maintain focus at all times. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the support you need and then you need to start pushing that drive within yourself.
Leozette: Where can fans find you and follow what you are up to?
Lungile: People can find me on Twitter by the handle @lungzie or on my Facebook fanpage “Lungile Nhlanhla Masterchef”. I do try and respond and reply as often as I can, so please don’t get discouraged if I don’t reply within the minute.
Howl would like to thank Lugile for taking the time out of her busy life to chat to us. We wish her all the success in her new career and we are excited to see what the future holds.