Many South Africans would much rather put their thumbs to work for an Uber Eats request than hit the kitchen after a long day’s work. But a KwaZulu-Natal-born Instagram foodie and aspiring blogger, Chanel Hamiel (31), prefers the opposite.
This is unlike many of us who wonder what to make, then actually decide not to make dinner to avoid cleaning up afterwards… Yes, cooking is a chore that many would much rather avoid.
Long days spent working on construction sites in the bustling metropole of Johannesburg can be gruelling at times, but nothing beats coming home and cooking up a storm to unwind and relax, says Hamiel.
“My day job is very different from food blogging,” she giggles.
“Every day, I wake up early in the morning, and only get back home late from a job where I spend hours dealing with drawings and buildings.
“It gets hectic, so I think food gives me that escape to get away from those hectic days. Construction is long hours. Food helps me to relax and unwind.”
With a little encouragement from a dear friend, last year Hamiel decided to showcase her love for food through an Instagram profile she calls “Cooking with Chanel”.
“I never imagined that I would start a food blog one day, and have it be a success. Every single post, every recipe created is an achievement in itself,” she tells Food For Mzansi.
“My love for food led to me wanting to share my version of these recipes with other food lovers.”
Hamiel says, “Everyone knows if you want a recipe for this or that, I am the person you come to.
“My really good friend Tebogo was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you start a page? You are always giving people tips. You always have recipes. Why don’t you start a page where you can give even more people recipes?’”
Generational love for food
Hamiel says her love for cooking stems from her family. Not only was she born to a generation of cooks, but her parents both worked in the culinary space.
“My mom worked in a deli. That’s also where I got my knowledge of food from, and then my dad is a chef as well, I am thankful that both my parents were in the food industry.”
Growing up in Durban, Hamiel recalls that she was not one of those kids who spent hours a day in front of the TV or playing outside. She would be inside, helping her mother, Amanda, bake cakes and other desserts.
“I would be more interested in being in the kitchen than watching TV or playing outside. My mum would always let me mix the cake batters or separate the eggs.
“It was not long before she started encouraging me to create the dish myself without her helping hand. This made me fall in love with food even more when I realised what I could create it with my hands,” she says.
Today, she draws inspiration for her vibrant dishes watching hours and hours of cooking shows.
“Comfort food isn’t pretentious, it is simple and hits a certain spot in your soul.”
Hamiel loves watching international cooking shows that draw on different cooking styles or ingredients.
“I transform them into South African-friendly dishes by switching up the ingredients so that everyone can make it at home and enjoy. My love for this led to me wanting to share my version of these recipes with other food lovers,” she says.
Engage your followers
Amongst her loyal followers, Chanel Hamiel’s page is a hub of vibrant, comfort food. “Comfort food isn’t pretentious, it is simple and hits a certain spot in your soul!
“It’s something that reminds me of home and my childhood. So, whether it’s a bowl of mac and cheese or even a butter chicken with roti, I definitely love cooking my childhood favourites.”
Hamiel warns other aspiring food influencers to never ignore your followers. Followers are your lifeline.
After all, the point of starting your journey as Instagram influencer is to share skills and recipes to inspire other home cooks, she says.
“When I started out, I hardly engaged with my followers because I never had the time. In turn, I never knew if my recipes were easy to make or if families were enjoying them.
“Now I set time aside to engage with everyone. It helps me grow as a blogger to hear feedback about my recipe and because their thoughts about the recipes are what matter the most.
“It’s to help home cooks be more confident in the kitchen and in order to find out if it’s working you need to engage,” she says.
Advice to future foodies
Hamiel hopes to further hone her skills by one day become a professional chef. “I want to be able to share more of my skills through television or even in person through one-on-one cooking classes.”
She advises aspiring foodies, chefs and home cooks to always invest in themselves if they are looking to break into the culinary industry.
“You are your greatest resource in the kitchen. In our industry, food trends are constantly evolving and being a chef or home cook means you also need to constantly upskill yourself.
“Teach yourself a new cooking technique every once in a while. It will work to your advantage in the kitchen whether you are a professional or simply just cooking from home,” she says.