He is not a qualified chef, but Methoa Zitha wears his love for food on his sleeve. Zitha’s willpower to move past the circumstances in which he was raised has opened a number of culinary doors for him. Today he works with one of Mzansi’s top chefs, David Higgs, and is well on his way to bagging a culinary qualification.
22-year-old Zitha is the eldest of eight children whose family immigrated from Zimbabwe to South Africa before he was born. He grew up in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg.
“I always kept busy and didn’t want to get involved in criminal activities or anything dangerous, because I grew up in a very corrupt place,” he says.
When he was 13 years old, Zitha realised how much he loved cooking. Spending hours helping his mother, Beauty Mabasa, with preparing meals, Zitha discovered his untapped potential in the kitchen.
At the age of 16, he decided to take up a weekend job at a coffee shop on Northern Farm Nature Reserve in Diepsloot. Zitha worked at the coffee shop for two years before he matriculated from Diepsloot West Secondary School in 2015.
“In 2016 I worked at Mugg & Bean and Saint restaurant and then I started to work as junior chef at Marble restaurant in Rosebank, where I have been now for the past three years,” says Zitha.
Marble is owned by chef and cookbook author David Higgs, who was named Chef of the Year in 2012. Zitha says Higgs is one of the people who inspired him to become a professional chef.
“He [Higgs] is a good guy but doesn’t like mistakes. If he showed me something, I must make sure I get it right. Higgs also advises me to listen to other chefs when they are trying to help me, because they will show me the right way of cooking,” Zitha says.
Through Higgs’s mentorship, Zitha is always respectful. “Higgs always says ‘don’t have an attitude. Life is about helping other people’ and to be presentable,” Zitha adds.
“Believe in yourself and don’t hesitate to get some support,” says Zitha
For the past six years Zitha has taken up cycling as an extramural activity. His cycling interest started when he was a young boy. “I saw how other children would ride their bicycles in the streets. Not having a bike of my own I decided to borrow one from my neighbour,” he adds.
These days he cycles as a hobby in his free time. “This is to keep my body fit and because it keeps me busy when I’m not in the kitchen. Through cycling I get to experience something new and it takes me to different places.”
He says his cycling has taken him across the country to places such as the Western Cape, Mpumalanga and the Free State. Zitha’s first bike race was in 2013 in Pretoria when he participated in the Nissan Trailseeker MTB Series. “I’ve participated in other bike races like the Absa Cape Epic, Cape Pioneer Trek, Wines2Whales (W2W) and the Imana Wild Ride, to name a few.”
Off the cycling tracks this young foodie is now enrolled in HTA culinary school in Randburg and will start his training in September this year. He dreams of opening an Italian restaurant one day, because he thinks people love pasta and it can be profitable. Reflecting on how far he has come, Zitha encourages other young people to follow their dreams. His advice: “Believe in yourself and don’t hesitate to get some support.”
Young and burning with a passion for cooking, Methoa Zitha has prepared a Mzansi favourite, lamb potjie with rice.