At a mere 24 years old, Dananai Chipunza is a Zimbabwean Chef and Culinary Entrepreneur. Having obtained her qualification at the world renowned Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Paris, France. She expressed to me how very passionate about food and culture she is, and it’s exciting to have caught her while on her journey to bring better knowledge of International Cuisine to Zimbabwe.
I asked her to explain the theme and concept of the International Cultural Food Festival (ICFF), and if what she studied inspired her to start ICFF. Her response was; “It is a food and cultural convergence aimed at bringing nations together through food and culture while promoting diverse cultures that live in Zimbabwe.”
Furthermore, she had this to add; “I have always had a passion for food but what inspired me to start ICFF was a visit to one of the international schools in Harare while they had a themed United Nations (UN) day taking place. The school being an international school had the parents of the diverse students attending the school all make dishes from their countries of origin, and they served them during the celebrations. I took interest at how the locals present were intrigued by the different cuisines showcased on that day, and this made me want to host a similar event on but on the larger note. This way it would allow the locals living in Harare an opportunity to be able to experience a similar concept to the UN day.”
It was absorbing to listen to her speak so passionately about food, as Dananai is someone who was lucky enough to have just fallen into her passion. She has always loved food, so she found herself being able to cook at a young age. Her inspiration is her mother who always encouraged her sister and her to prepare their meals for lunch after school, and soon enough they were off to making their dinners!
It wasn’t long until Dananai was hooked to watching cooking shows on BBC food, such as Ainsley Harriot and Jamie Oliver, that by the time she completed high school, she knew that she wanted a career in culinary arts.
I wanted to test and see whether Dananai is a true culinarian, by asking her to share with me her favorite dishes to cook according to the four seasons.
Receiving a quick response from her, “Well! Autumn’s come with a new hype centered around quail birds in Zimbabwe, so the last two years, in particular, I have enjoyed making stuffed pineapple quails with a nutty sauce. The quail complemented by the sweetness of the pineapple and the nut sauce adds that little burst of flavor to the dish.”
Continuing, “With Winter, despite my love for soups, I am a sucker for winter desserts and my favorite to make being Malva Pudding. I especially love serving my pudding with some tinned mangoes and a vanilla ice cream instead of the usual which is custard.”
Carrying on, “Summer for me is a combination of vegetables and fruit, which are my favorites for this particular season. The typical Greek Salad with strips of red and yellow pepper combined with mandarins and strawberries makes the perfect salad to have on a hot summer day.”
Lastly, “When it’s Spring my go to is poached eggs with salmon, tossed cherry tomatoes and crushed avocado toasted baguette bread. The unusual ingredients in this recipe are perfect for a spring breakfast.”
All the food talk that’s happened, I had to ask Dananai to leave the readers with some inspiration. She was delighted, ending off by saying; “I am a firm believer in pushing passion, as someone once said, ‘Do what you love every day, and you will never get to work a day in your life.’ My profession is not one of the most paid where I come from, but I have chosen to sharpen my skills and polish my talent until I start reaping the rewards of the seed I planted the day I opted to take culinary arts as my chosen career.”
Adding, “The road has not always been easy; I am still not there, but I am happy with what I do and where I am with my passion. It Despite what field someone is in, I always urge people to push passion when it comes to doing what they love. No matter how hard the road may be or the ridiculous number of roadblocks that might come your way all you need to do is to preserve and know that one day all that hard work will pay off.”