The culinary world is mourning the loss of Dorah Sitole, a legendary food editor, travel writer and author who died last night. Her death, aged 67, was confirmed by True Love magazine, her former employer.
While details of her death is still unknown, hundreds of South Africans and government have taken to social media to express their shock and condolences. Journalist Ferial Haffajee described it as “a gut-punch” while photographer and books editor Phyllis Green said Sithole “was one of the warmest and most genuine people I have worked with in my magazine career.”
We would like to extend our condolences on the passing of the seasoned chef, Mama #DorahSitole. Thank you for shining the culinary spotlight on the flavours of Africa. #RIPDorahSitole [Pic: @NBPublishers] pic.twitter.com/XyeZlBLDEC
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) January 4, 2021
Well-known radio host Thabo “Tbose” Mokwele thanked Sitole for “opening doors, paving the way and inspiring others to make their culinary passion a career.”
In a tweet, Leloe’s Kitchen said he remembered meeting Sitole in his days as a waiter at a Johannesburg coffee shop. “She later introduced me to her daughter. We would have big, fat chats about food and everything in-between.” Physician and radio host Dr Sindi van Zyl also expressed her sadness following the news of Sitole’s death.
I am so heartbroken about Mama Dorah Sitole 💔
— Sindisiwe (@sindivanzyl) January 4, 2021
Sitole’s illustrious food career included her three cookbooks. Dorah Sitole: 40 years of iconic food was published last year to celebrate her 40-year culinary journey. The former True Love magazine editor and a trained Cordon Bleu chef cooked South African cuisine at global cooking shows in, among others, Memphis, Tokyo and Rome.
A champion for African cuisine
“I cook to keep our food culture alive,” Sitole told Food For Mzansi during her last interview. She was pleased by what she described as a food revolution among up-and-coming chefs.
“It’s almost like all of a sudden people have woken up to food, and I’m talking about the black community, because for a long time it was just me alone in this industry. I am in my encore years and I plan to work for as long as my body will allow me to.”
Sithole said it was a life mission to keep traditional African cuisine on the international food agenda. Her late mother was a dressmaker and her father a lecturer, both with little time to cook. Sithole then took over the family cooking duties as a child, often experimenting with new recipes.
In 1972, Sitole matriculated from Orlando West High School in Soweto, Johannesburg. After matriculating, she worked as a research officer at Market Research Africa.
She said, “After seven years I joined the Canned Food Advisory Service as a junior home economist. I then joined Media24 and was the food editor for True Love for 22 years and the editor for three years.”
While working at the Canned Food Advisory Service, Sitole was able to complete her formal qualifications. She also holds diplomas in public relations and communications.
“DORAH Sithole was one of the warmest and most genuine people I have worked with in my magazine career.”
Despite her success, she told Food For Mzansi that she still mourned the death of her husband, Archie, in 2014 and eldest son, Sifiso, in 1990. A bronzed pair of Sifiso’s shoes had a permanent place on her lounge table.
Sitole remained as optimistic and excited as ever about food, reported New Frame. In an interview with them she said, “I think we are really on the cusp of an African food revolution. I look at my grandson and he loves sushi and I often wonder whether children in Tokyo eat South African food, but we are slowly getting there. We are embracing our food as a country and as a continent and that’s a big part of the revolution.”