Melissa Delport is a powerhouse woman who truly embraced her career with open arms and trusted the process. We were so excited to catch up with her
Tell us about your career journey thus far.
So I initially studied make-up artistry once I left school. I then went on to study photography and was adamant I would be in the fashion industry once I moved to Cape Town. I worked at a modelling agency, wanted to be a fashion photographer and I could do the make-up, so I thought it would be ideal for me. It was okay for a while, but my career didn’t take off and move the way that I wanted it to. With a nudge from my partner, I ended up entering MasterChef South Africa Season 3 and made it to the boot-camp stage.
While I didn’t make it further, that felt like it changed my course.After the show, a friend asked if I knew of any food photographers, and I thought of giving it a go myself. I showed these images to an old colleague of mine and her reaction was more than enough to make me start photographing food as my career instead. She asked me to build her a portfolio within a month and would represent me if I did. Needless to say, I worked my behind off to pull that together.
It seemed that things started snowballing after that – my food blog The Truffle Journal began as well and my food career seemed to be moving in a positive direction. With all this experience I was gathering, I decided to email a publisher and put together my first recipe book: WHOLE. I am such a big believer in synchronicity and listening to where the universe takes you, so although this has been a radical path, it wasn’t really planned. I followed my nose and trusted that what unfolded for me was meant for me.
You speak about food with such passion. Have you always known that you wanted to work with food?
No. I grew up in a family that were serious home cooks. My family is about the food and we would come together for the food. My grandmother is a major source of inspiration and a big reason I am the creative that I am. She taught me to express myself in life, which was huge for me as a creative. I could bake a chocolate cake from scratch at the age of 8 because that was what we did as a family. We cooked, we baked, we ate and this common thread of food was always consistent in my life.
I enjoyed it and always kept at it. While working on my fashion photography career at the time, the change happened with the MasterChef South Africamoment. During the exit interview, they ask you what is next, and I thought maybe photographing food would be a good step from me. Things kind of rolled from there and before I knew it, food became my full-time career.
What does a typical day in the life of Melissa look like?
I generally try and get to bed at a reasonable time. I believe in honouring your sleep – it’s really important because it ultimately affects your health at the end of the day. I also wake up at a fairly reasonable time: I am not a very early bird, and I like to leave my mornings until 10 am for exercise.
It’s my time to get into my body, wake up and move around, and follow it up with a yummy breakfast. Then it’s straight into my coaching: Depending on how many clients I have for the day, it could go until lunchtime or even the late afternoon. If I have a private chef project or an upcoming retreat for the next day, I will have to go into the preparation of the food needed for that day. Late afternoons are generally reserved for my admin and digital work, so that would include emails and putting together content for my social media just to name a few.
Evenings are my downtime: I love to create in the kitchen and I’m big about rituals, so I’ll light my candles, dim my lights, put on my music, and then start cooking. Food is something that brings me a lot of joy, so I like to slow down and really connect with it. I use this creative time to play around with recipes and ingredients, and just spend time connecting with my partner as well.
Out of the many hats you wear, which one has been the most challenging?
I would say probably the coaching. Initially when I started coaching, I thought it would be more of me teaching people to eat more fruits and vegetables, which it is and I do. But more importantly, it’s also about dealing with your deepest wounding because that is what actually drives your food decisions. It can get quite draining, but at the same time completely rewarding. There is a lot of duality in it for me because I honour the fact that I have been chosen to hold space for people, and that they trust me to do so.
How are you feeling with the success of HEAL?
Well, to start, HEALhas been nominated as the best in the world for the Gourmand Cookbook Awards this year for the finals in the health and nutrition category, which I am so appreciative of. I got this book deal in 2019 initially, and I was about to go into production for shooting in early 2020 when Covid-19 hit. This put us behind by six weeks and made me a bit apprehensive as to how the book would do, seeing the pandemic affect every industry.
After seeing how the book has done since we launched, I feel incredibly blessed. It’s been really wonderful to see it being so well received and now that it has been nominated for this award, it feels kind of surreal. Even if HEALdoesn’t win, just to be acknowledged on the opposite side of the world gives me goosebumps. The book was written from my heart, so to share something so vulnerable and openly with everyone is quite nerve-racking, but I’m blessed with its success. I feel like the luckiest human in the world, to be honest.
Any advice for young, ambitious individuals trying to stay motivated?
I heard this statement really early on in my career and it’s something that still sticks with me till today. It was through a podcast I think, but simply put, they said: ‘to be relentless.’ Be relentless in what you want, in whatever shape or form that is. If you don’t know what you want, be relentless in finding out what it is by trying and doing everything. Be relentless with what sets your soul on fire; don’t stop until you find it. The world needs more people that are truly lit up and truly enjoy what it is they do.
Words by Yashna Balwanth
Photography: Courtesy Images
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