Chef Zana appointed National Chairperson of SA Chefs Women in Culinary

The South African Chefs Association have appointed Chef Zana Alvarado national Chairperson of SA Chefs Women in Culinary (WIC).

The Johannesburg halaal food scene is not unfamiliar with Chef Zana. She is a private chef and can be found at various markets running Mestizo, an authentic Mexican food popup, or supporting her husband who runs Filligrana, maker of the Peruvian Alfajore treats.

We find out more about Chef Farzana Alvarado…

Who is Chef Zana?
I’m a chef (obviously!) and entrepreneur. I currently hold the position of Vice Chair for SA Chefs Gauteng Committee, and am a brand ambassador for WWF SASSI, where the focus is on sustainability in our marine resources

What is the purpose  of Women in Culinary?
WIC is a subcommittee of the SA Chefs Association. It is designed to empower women, and be a safe space with resources, mentorship and guidance for female culinary professionals.
As part of the portfolio, WIC explores the challenges and opportunities of how women are treated in the workplace, amongst other issues that women chefs face both at front and back of house.

This is the place women and female student chefs can go to for help, and the issue be treated confidentially.

What is your vision for the committee?
As Chair of Women In Culinary, one of my goals is to ensure that female chefs are aware of their rights, that they know they have a national representative committee, and that there are people here, ready and willing to assist, motivate, advise and point them in the right direction.

The industry has historically been male dominated, and I feel the narrative has to change, especially now, in a post Covid world.  For example, in our homes, the women mostly, tend to cook the meals, yet professional cooking is mainly reserved for men.

As more and more women enter the industry, we need to inculcate an environment of acceptance, mutual respect and career opportunities for females. Men and women, each bring different things to the table (the pun is intended!). We are by nature, intrinsically different – and the workplace should rightfully recognise that. Women contribute certain strengths such as the ability to multi-task, compassion, intuition and relationship-building.

As female chefs, we are not here to compete with our male colleagues. We are here to work alongside, to contribute to the overall success of the team or establishment, and add professional value to culinary in our country. In my opinion, all chefs, irrespective of gender, are the gateway to our country’s cuisine. We are the “Culinary Ambassadors” of South Africa – not just for our people, but for every tourist who arrives here seeking a thrilling and delicious adventure.

Whether it’s a laid back hotel dinner overlooking a bay, a boma braai at a five-star resort in the Kruger, or a lekker kasi meal in a township restaurant, the food we as chefs put out is the deal breaker, on whether people leave our shores thinking our food and service is “ok” or a world class gastronomic experience. I prefer they leave with “world class” in mind.

And if we can do this with FAIR KITCHENS, good treatment of staff, work with integrity and create a healthy work environment, where each person is valued for their skills and work ethic, be inclusive and celebrate diversity, then we as SA Chefs will be trailblazers in the global food industry. I do believe that this requires a holistic approach which the entire culinary industry in SA can benefit from.

I also know that it will take work to get there. Change does not happen overnight, and I humbly appeal to every culinary professional to support this cause, because it really is a cause. WIC has all the tools to make a positive impact, and we need to lay strong foundations now, for the future of culinary in South Africa.


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