Katatala Ryan Nkole studied at Prue Leith Chefs Academy and graduated with a grandè diploma in culinary arts and wine. He has worked for a top 10 restaurant in Johannesburg, South Africa , and is currently free lancing being a personal chef.
KAPA187: Who is Katatala Ryan Nkole?
Katatala Ryan Noel: Katatala Ryan Noel is a 24 year old chef and owner of Umami personal chef services and lover of culinary art and its endless possibilities, recovering bacon addict and failed superhero so this food thing is all I have.
KAPA187: What made you want to be a professional chef as opposed to a more traditional career such a lawyer or doctor?
Katatala Ryan Noel: Well it’s the same old cliché if you ask me, been cooking since I was 9 but I’ve always known what I wanted to be. I vividly remember a school interview in the 3th grade they asked what we wanted to be I said chef and they laughed at me, my parents loved to dine out those days given we only went to Pamodzi, inters and the odd Chinese restaurant. I basically stumbled upon BBC food channel one day and was amazed with all that I saw from then on I started to experiment, I remember attempting to make pizza , curing meat and a flop cake which I quickly renamed chandelier cake. And I’ve never been one to follow the crowd or the norm.
KAPA187: Was your family in support of your decision.
Katatala Ryan Noel: My family has been very very supportive and I really thank God for my mother, the sacrifices made for me to pursue this where huge but we managed. I mean if I have been plotting this since the 3rd grade it would be cruel to deny me. Even when my dad, an old school Bemba man, accepted that I will not be doing purchasing and supply he came around. He even said to me once and I quote “chefs should be one of the most paid people I mean we don’t know what goes on inside there but at least we can put in some delicious food”.
KAPA187: You graduate with a grandè diploma in in culinary arts and wine from Pure leith chef Academy. How important is having a good education if one wants to be a chef? Is experience alone enough to make it in your field?
Katatala Ryan Noel: I’m torn between; it’s like 52/48 with education vs. experience. I mean some of the world’s best , the for fathers of cuisine , the Escoffier’s and Fernad Point never went to school, even modern day greats like Allian Ducasse with his 24 Michelin stars did not have a culinary school behind them or South African chefs like Bertus Basson and chef Michael of Terrior did not go to school. But personally I feel a culinary education is important, reason being that it sparks creativity, as a student you’re taught the basics of , let’s say a mayonnaise and its traditional derivatives but with your knowledge of the basics you can play around with it …they teach you flavor pairing and from there you create your own flavor profiles. But coming up from the ranks as a scholar, unless you’re a culinary prodigy, you will constantly be cooking menus that someone else has developed. I guess I lean more on the school side.
KAPA187: In your opinion what is the biggest misconception of professional chefs?
Katatala Ryan Noel: Let’s see, biggest misconception thinking a chef and a cook are the same, that chefs like to cook on their off days, that we don’t like to be cooked for, that women absolutely love us, ok that one is true, it’s not all glitz and glamor, the kitchens are rough and that we hate waiters/servers okay that one is also true.
KAPA187: Do you specialize in a particular type of food.
Katatala Ryan Noel: Well I’m classically trained in French cuisine, as well as Italian, pan African, pastry and what I’m going to call contemporary Zambian cuisine, which is taking classic dishes and Zambian ingredients we grew up on to the next level. I also have a passion for making pasta and ice-cream
KAPA187: Having worked for both, a top restaurant and being a personal chef, which one do you consider to be more challenging?
Katatala Ryan Noel: Both are challenging in their own right being a personal chef is more intimate one on one with the client doing exactly what they want for example I did this romantic 5 course dinners; he was going to propose so everything had to be perfect. In a restaurant on the other hand is a whole different ball game working 13-18hr shifts, but the adrenaline during service yoh!! You don’t feel a cut or a burn, it’s intense; I will take a restaurant please.
KAPA187: Do you feel professional chefs in Zambia are able to compete with there counterparts in other countries?
Katatala Ryan Noel: Honestly we cannot compete at all, at least not yet the levels are so so different. First off we need to get more professional chefs not people doing It as a job but people who love it and want to create, then we need to grow our industry we are getting there but people aren’t in the habit of dinning out yet, have to start giving the a reason to. Stop the nonsense of bringing in a foreign chef who teaches the cooks how to prep his menu and leaves then they’re stuck cooking the same menu over and over for years even that’s boring. I’m not saying they should not come at all, but come here, keep the standard high, create competition. Don’t bring a burnt out chef who’s just here for the money, we need young hungry chefs. We have a bit to do but we can get there, I know that’s why I’m back to change the industry.
KAPA187: What have been the best and worst moments in your career?
Katatala Ryan Noel: Best moments
- Meeting and working with the best chefs in the country , chefs Martinez , Bertus Basson, David Higs , Gregory to name a few.
- Working during a “master chef south Africa” held at our school.
- Having my ideas make it on the menu.
- Winning the ultimate braai master
- Cooking with chef Paulina of Mexico for the Mexican ambassador and later having a chat with him.
- Working the winter sculpture festival at Birox, must have been like 100 people there.
Doing my then chefs wedding.
- And meeting a bunch of like-minded people at the Prue Leith Chefs Academy, shout out.
Worst, don’t have many of those, been kicked out the kitchen, had a bowl thrown at me, and messing up an order during service and chef lets you have it.
KAPA187: Could you give us an example of a menu that you would prepare for this particular season in Zambia.
Katatala Ryan Noel: Seasonal menu
Kwambwa tea and thyme smoked beef fillet, beer battered fondant sweet potato, cauliflower puree, broccoli florests, rape cremè and micro green salad.
Suggested wine pairing
KAPA187: What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in culinary arts?
Katatala Ryan Noel: You really have to want this, be passionate, doesn’t help being very talented but having a rotten attitude, and love what you’re doing, have hunger for everything food, excuse the pun. And “vivir para cocinar, cocinar para vivir” which means live to cook, cook to live.
KAPA187: Any last words…
Katatala Ryan Noel: Chase after your dreams or someone else is going to hire you to help build theirs.