There is power in food to unite Mzansi

We learn other cultures by tasting them, says health coach and chef Ulla Pakendorf-Loubser

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“I learnt early on that food unites people and we can learn so much from each other’s culture through tasting it.” So says Ulla Pakendorf-Loubser, journalist, health coach and chef.  

This all-rounder wife and mother of two has worked in radio and television, and she’s planning on combining all her qualifications to present a healthier take on recipes and cooking in Mzansi.  

Recipe: Ulla’s Healthy Big South African Breakfast

The 47-year-old was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, previously known as Salisbury, Rhodesia. Her family moved back to South Africa when she was three years old. She remembers spending most of her time in Pretoria and Randburg when she was younger.  

Pakendorf-Loubser says what shaped her into the person that she is today, all points back to how she was raised. This food-lover is also reminded of how her father, Harald Pakendorf, a well-known political analyst and also a foodie, would wake up at 3 am to bake bread. A practice he still continues at the age of 80.   

Before venturing into health coaching, Ulla opened a restaurant with her father Harald Pakendorf.
Before venturing into health coaching, Ulla opened a restaurant with her father Harald Pakendorf.

As a child, Pakendorf-Loubser recalls their home being full of life. With three sisters and with friends always visiting, their house was always busy. “It was a real buzz and energy all around. How my mom catered for all these people I don’t know. We played Trivial Pursuit for hours and watched horror movies. My mom and her friends as well. Age was never an issue in our house. Everybody had a voice and we all mingled,” says Pakendorf-Loubser. 

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She matriculated at Randburg High School in 1989 and completed a degree in journalism from the North West University thereafter. Since food has always played an important role in her life, Pakendorf-Loubser decided to become a chef. In 2003 she opened a restaurant called Ullala in BoskruinRandburg, with her father.  

We served authentic Boerekos (farmstyle food) and it was a place where people of all races and languages got to ‘kuier’ (socialize). We regularly had unplugged music evenings with artists and their guitars, the wine was flowing, and the food was wholesome.” 

The restaurant closed its doors three years later when Pakendorf-Loubser fell pregnant. She then went on to co-present the Afrikaans radio program, OmmiTafel (Around the Table), on Radio Sonder Grense (RSG) 

On the airwaves Pakendorf-Loubser and her co-presenters, Cornia Pretorius and Jacqui January, discussed the origin and trends of food. She also cooked for the television program Ontbytsake for eight years. 

“I then decided to take food to the next level. To not just make food that tastes good, but really nourishes and heals.” 

I studied nutritional therapy for three years through the College of Naturopathic Medicine in the United Kingdom and am currently a health coach.” 

Today she runs her own health coaching business. She also spends time developing recipes for an in-house magazine. While her children are still young, Pakendorf-Loubser prefers to work half-day, because she does not want to miss out on any “season” of their life. 

Loubser with her two sons and husband, Con.
Loubser with her two sons and husband, Con.

When she is not busy in the kitchen, Pakendorf-Loubser likes to read, knit or enjoy a glass of wine with her husband, Con. Pakendorf-Loubser’s talents are wide-ranging and it doesn’t surprise that she’s pretty funny too. “I told my sons to scatter my ashes in the kitchen one day,” she says chuckling.  

The desire to make a difference keeps her going and constantly motivated. And she is not planning on stopping anytime soon. Pakendorf-Loubser plans to grow her health coaching business, to continue developing nourishing recipes for magazines and she dreams of a cooking slot on television. 

There is power in food that goes beyond the nutritional value. My dad and I have a dream of hosting a television series where he talks about the politics and heritage of food and I cook.” 

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