Noel Kanyemba – Chef de Partie in the kitchen at the Big Easy Durban – is a master at juggling pots and pans, his studies and being a father-of-two.
Kanyemba – who joined the Hilton Durban in the main kitchen in February 2012 – recently graduated from an internal three-year training course at the Hospitality Training Academy (HTA). At one stage he was doing two courses simultaneously while working in the Hotel’s main kitchen. He was selected as a candidate for the HTA course by management while still working in the main hotel. When the Big Easy Durban opened its doors in October 2016, Noel was transferred from the Main Kitchen and joined the initial team in the planning and preparation stages.
“I assisted with the trial menus before the opening last year. It was very exciting.”
Head Chef Janine says that Kanyemba’s initiative, dedication and willingness to work hard, made him a natural choice to join the Big Easy Durban team.
The 31-year-old – who is currently employed as a Chef de Partie (station chef) behind-the-scenes in the Big Easy kitchen – became expert at co-ordinating his occupation with his studies.
“Working while studying in the same field was a good thing as I could put into practice what I was learning in theory. I also gained so much from watching other people in the kitchen – especially Head Chef Janine; she passed on so many new tips and techniques and pushed me to explore.”
“The hours are long – one can sometimes work an 18-hour day – but it’s so worth it,” Noel says with a wide smile.
Rather than watch reality cookery shows, Noel reads recipe books in his spare time finding inspiration between the pages. His favourite part of the kitchen is the pastry station.
“I love creating delicious pastries and making everything from scratch. One is not limited with what one can do.”
The Big Easy Durban chef de partie began his journey with food from a young age.
“I was probably about 11 when I joined my Mom in the kitchen and helped with the cooking. Even though I was the only boy in the family I took responsibility early on and would prepare the evening meal when I got home from school every day. Because my Mom often worked late, I did most of the cooking and have always loved being in the kitchen.”
Noel warns aspirant chefs that “life in the kitchen gets hectic! One must have endurance, be willing to work long hours, be a self-starter, self-motivated and learn to take reprimands with a pinch of salt. Don’t take criticism personally but take your work personally. You have to give of your best.
“There are many different personalities in the kitchen and different teachers. Learn by watching and asking questions.”
Noel has been involved in the catering for many functions and has served up to 600 people in one night.
“Even after a hard day’s work one must still remain creative – no matter how long you have been on your feet.”
Maintaining energy levels is also all-important when working in a busy kitchen.
“With all the tasting done during a day of prepping one can lose one’s appetite and not feel like sitting down to a proper meal – but you have to otherwise you won’t have the energy to get through the day,” Noel advises.
“When looking back I can see how much I have learnt in a year and how far I have come. Yet I still have so much to learn and want to grow more,” Noel says. Future plans include hopefully travelling to France and Italy – the homes of cuisine.
To book, telephone 031 336 8166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill
12-14 Walnut Road, Durban