Unaty Daniel went from engineering to waitressing, but in the end it was food and cooking that stole her heart.
Unaty Daniel went from engineering to waitressing, but in the end it was food and cooking that stole her heart.

Unaty Daniel has chased a number of careers, but in the end it was food and cooking that stole her heart. The 37-year-old from King Williams Town in the Eastern Cape went from studying electrical engineering to waitressing, to receptionist, to function co-ordinator. She even briefly studied hotel management before she finally became a qualified chef.

Today, Daniel runs a successful patisserie and bakery business and works as a private chef in Johannesburg. After matriculating in from Forbes Grant Senior Secondary School in King Williams Town in 2001, Daniel decided to study electrical engineering at Zwelethemba Technical College.

Daniel’s career allows her to try new things and understand different food cultures.
Daniel’s career allows her to try new things and understand different food cultures.

In 2003, when the engineering course no longer interested her, she dropped out and opted to wait tables instead. She spent the next six years waiting tables, working as a receptionist and coordinating functions at Moyo restaurant in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape.

RECIPE: Mopane worm chocolate tree and ginger crumble soil

Daniel needed something more to drive her and decided it was time for her to get a qualification. She decided to do hotel management and when that didn’t work out either, Daniel enrolled at Capsicum Culinary Studio and obtained a diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking in 2017.

“Cooking is not something I thought I would take as a career, even though I come from a family that cooks a lot. My grandmother was a chef in Mafeteng, Lesotho. So, for me it was only when I was working in the hospitality industry that I ended up falling in love with food,” says Daniel.

After years of searching, Daniel finally found that her heart was much closer to the kitchen than she thought. In 2015 she established a patisserie and bakery called Fablous Foods in Johannesburg. Her business officially opened its doors in 2018 and employs ten permanent staff.

“Cooking is not something I thought I would take as a career, even though I come from a family that cooks a lot,” says chef Unaty Daniel

“I supply cakes, assorted breads and desserts to caterers and chefs for their big events. I do a lot of corporate events, private weddings and parties. In between I also host private cooking and baking classes. My work is very demanding as I have to see that my kitchen runs smoothly, while on the other side I have to do my private chef services.”

Unaty with fellow foodie and friend, chef Zanele Van Zyl
Unaty with fellow foodie and friend, chef Zanele Van Zyl

Daniel’s career allows her to meet new people, to try new things and understand different food cultures. Although she has made quite a few careers changes in the past, Daniel’s husband has always supported her and remains her biggest inspiration.

The mother of two boys says she loves art, has a good sense of humour and that her hidden talent is dancing. Daniel plans to open a free cooking school for adults and children who love to be creative in the kitchen and hopes to help other aspiring cooks and chefs to start small catering businesses.

Although being a chef isn’t easy, Daniel encourages upcoming chefs and cooks to keep on doing what they love best – to bake and cook! “Fight for what you believe in and stay true to yourself,” she adds.

Chef Unaty Daniel prepared an African inspired dessert – Mopane worm chocolate tree and ginger crumble soil

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