When 27-year old Rutendo Ruth Marovatsanga won the coveted Young Star Chef of The Year Award at the One&Only Reaching for Young Stars project in December last year, little did she realise it was the start of what was to become the culinary adventure of a lifetime.
Ruru, as she is known, completed a diploma in hospitality management at The Private Hotel School in Stellenbosch before flying off to Dubai to take up an intense mentorship experience at the One&Only The Palm and The One&Only The Mirage in Dubai as part of her prize.
Her time in Dubai included a spell working in various restaurants under the wing of One&Only Royal Mirage’s Executive Chef, Laurent Thierry Eric Michel and One&Only The Palm’s Executive Chef, Patrice Schildowski, as well as culinary experience in 12 bars and restaurants, one of these being the three Michelin star restaurant, Stay by Chef Yannick Alléno.
Having recently returned from Dubai, Rutendo Ruth Marovatsanga spoke about her experience before flying off to take up a five-month work experience opportunity at Winslow’s Tavern, a highly-rated restaurant situated in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the US. This top heritage restaurant is housed in an historic building and is run by South Africans, Chef Patron Phillip and Tracey Hunt.
Why did you to want to study at The Private Hotel School?
Rutendo Ruth Marovatsanga: It was the Private Hotel School or nothing. I knew that was the place I wanted to study the moment I read about it on the school’s website. It was offering everything I needed and I really felt like the course was structured specifically for me.
What course did you do?
Rutendo Ruth Marovatsanga: I did an AHA accredited Diploma in Hospitality Management, though this will certainly not be the last course I do with the school as I am looking forward to enhancing my education further.
How was your recent internship in Dubai?
RRM: Amazing is an understatement! It was phenomenal and life changing. I worked at two hotels, The Royal Mirage where I worked in four different restaurants – Olives, Celebrities, Drift and Eauzone. The second hotel was The Palm where I worked in three restaurants -Zest, 101 and the popular, three Michelin star Stay by Yannick Alleno.
The highlight of your time in Dubai?
RRM: Being treated to a three-course meal at Stay by Yannick Alleno. The food was phenomenal!
What were the main things you learned while working there?
RRM: Perseverance, passion and commitment. The working hours were hectic and there was a lot of pressure in the kitchens as they all strive to maintain very high standards.
You are next off to go and work at the Winslow Tavern in the US. What will be your position there?
RRM: I will be working as a junior chef. I am really looking forward to it.
Name three things that are always in your fridge.
RRM: Definitely a bottle or two of Sauvignon Blanc as well as ham and milk.
What is your favourite kitchen appliance or utensil?
RRM: Kitchen Aid stand mixer.
What would be on the menu for your last meal?
RRM: Medium-well wagyu ribeye.
What do you not eat?
RRM: Mussels and tripe – the latter being a delicacy in my home.
What chefs do you most admire?
RRM: Firstly, my favourite chef is Chef Aviv Liebenburg who mentored me while I was at The Private Hotel School. His passion, patience and skill are incomparable. And then also Chef Reuben Riffel, who is very calm and collected yet has a loud presence. It is my dream that one day I will open a Reuben’s franchise.
If you could cook for five famous people dead or alive who would they be and what would you make?
RRM: Being a daring individual I would to push myself to the limit and prepare Beef Wellington for Gordon Ramsey; southern fried chicken for Michelle and Barack; something sweet, maybe a toffee pudding, for Jamie Oliver; and chicken biryani for Alex Guarnaschelli who is the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurant and also appears in television shows like Chopped, Iron Chef America and All Star Family Cook-off.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
RRM: I would have definitely grown in my career, hoping to be an entrepreneur one day and run a small but exclusive restaurant.
What advice would you give someone who is considering a career in the hospitality industry?
RRM: The industry is passion driven; don’t do it for any other reason other than because you love what you do and hospitality is what you want to do.
Anything else you would like to add?
RRM: Hard work pays off! Nothing comes on a silver platter but through hard work nothing is impossible. I would like to thank all those who have supported me and continue to do so – The Private Hotel School, One & Only Cape Town, Showcook, SA Pork and – of course – not forgetting my amazing family.