If you’ve had the pleasure of dining at Ilala Lodge’s Palm Restaurant over the past four years, then you’ve been fortunate enough to sample a masterpiece at the hands of Executive Chef Anele Dube. We recently caught up with the dynamic young man to gain some insight into his formative years.
A born-and-bred Zimbabwean, Anele was trained at The Fusion Cooking School in Durban, South Africa. A self-proclaimed “Bulawayo Boy”, he moved to the United Kingdom in 2004, at the tender age of 18. Initially a working holiday with friends, this 6-year stint would come to define his future life.
After gaining a vast amount of experience in the front and backend of various British restaurants, he made his way to Fusion to complete an 18-month, internationally-acclaimed, Diploma in Global Cuisine.
From Durban, he made the bold move back to Zimbabwe, assisting restaurateur Pilane Mazadzire with his latest project – The Lounge – in the country’s capital, Harare. Both Anele, and top-class Cape Town chef, Anton Rautenbach, were tasked with getting this new restaurant up and running successfully, a challenge they completed in due course.
In the meantime, Ilala Lodge was on the hunt for a new Executive Chef, following Chef Camilla’s imminent departure. As fate would have it, Anele handed his CV to recruitment specialists, CV People Africa, where General Manager Martin Vaughan stumbled upon it. Thus, the then 26-year-old Anele Dube made his way to Ilala Lodge in 2011 where he worked under Chef Camilla for several months before completely taking over the reins.
Is being a chef something you’ve always wanted to do?
No, not really, I can’t say I did. I actually found it, or it found me! Working at restaurants in the UK, I developed an interest in food. I started off as a waiter working front of house, but my interest was more in the food. I got quite a rush watching the guys in the kitchen. So I did my chef training vice-versa, gaining work first in the UK, and then the formal qualifications in South Africa.
What has your experience of Ilala been so far?
It’s been good! Look, it has its challenges. As you know, in Zim it’s not always easy, but I’ve learnt a lot in the 4 years I’ve been here.
Challenges like what?
Sourcing of produce is the one thing. I took it for granted being in the UK and South Africa, where everything is readily and easily available. Here, it’s quite a mission to get a plate on a table. You become a lot more hands on. I’m not just a chef, and I don’t just cook – I do a lot of sourcing of my own produce – I have to. So, it’s something I’ve learnt to do here, and I believe it’ll help me in the future.
Does that limit the Palm menus?
We make it work. I don’t limit myself to available produce. If I need to, I’ll source it; I’ll find it!
How often does The Palm menu change?
Because of the difficulties, I’d say once every 4 months it changes. Ideally, I’d like to do a seasonal menu, but it’s not always very easy to do here.
What sort of advice would you give to an aspiring chef entering the industry?
I believe the route that I took was the best route. A lot of people who go through the culinary schools first, before getting the work experience, have this perception that it’s all Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver; it’s smooth sailing. The truth is, it’s not always like that.
I would advise them to do the work experience first, even if it’s just for 3 months. Let them really understand what it’s about; that you’re going to have to put in long hours, you’re going to have to work in a hot kitchen, you’re going to have to sacrifice the holidays with family and friends, and you’re going to have to be very dedicated and passionate about it.
Unfortunately, school doesn’t really teach you that until you start doing work experience. I see a lot of guys, once they do the work experience, all of a sudden they’re not interested when they see how much you’ve got to put in. You don’t always have to put in 15-hour days, but every now and then you’re going to have to, and I find a lot of the younger guys get overwhelmed with that.
Tell me about your team at Ilala.
You know, I’ve got to say I’ve been very lucky. The two chefs before me laid down the foundations, and I’ve been working with what I was given. Obviously, I added one or two of my own staff, but for the most part I’ve been very fortunate to have a competent team around me.
To find out more about The Palm Restaurant at Ilala Lodge, and any current specials they may be running, click here.