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Q&A with Lucia Mthiyane

She used to light up our TV screens on the popular Mzansi soapies Muvhango and Rhythm City, but these days, Lucia is heating up the kitchen as the official chef of White Star maize meal. So why did the actress make the switch from soaps to soup? ‘I decided to take a break from acting because there is no respect for the career in the current acting generation,’ she says. Their loss is our gain – Lucia is now spreading her culinary knowledge far and wide, teaching women how to cook. ‘South Africans are multi-cultural and we should draw our inspiration from that, exploring and coming up with vibrant and colourful dishes,’ she says. And, thankfully, it’s not the last we’ll see of her on TV. ‘I have just shot a pilot episode…’

MK: Have you ever studied cooking?
Lucia: Everything I know is self-taught. I like to experiment with various textures to come up with some of my best-tasting dishes, like my lamb curry using sour cream and honey. I read a lot of books and interact with foodies and chefs to make sure I’m up to date with all the latest food trends.

MK: What is your favourite thing about South African cooking?
Lucia: We [South Africans] are multicultural and we draw our culinary inspiration from that. We are also big in farming, growing some of the best products in the world, allowing us to explore and come up with dishes that are vibrant and colourful.

MK: What are your top tips for transforming a staple ingredient, like White Star maize meal, into a gourmet dish?
Lucia: You need to fully understand the ingredient – its texture, its smell, what goes well with it – and then you need to think out of the box. Practise your dish several times before you call it a recipe and then take criticism from the people who taste it.

MK: What is your favourite food memory?
Lucia: Growing up in Umlazi, I always looked forward to Sunday lunch: waking up in the morning to the smell of roast chicken and seven-colour vegetables and getting excited about dessert, which we only had on weekends.

MK: What food and drinks go the best with jazz? 
Lucia: Nothing compliments jazz music better than a gourmet braai, a good whisky or a bottle of French Champagne.

Check out what yummy dishes Lucia taught us to cook with White Star maize meal:
Pap balls with chickpea chakalaka

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