CATCHING UP IN THE KITCHEN WITH TOP CHEF & NEW MOM, JACKIE CAMERON
The Insider SA heads to the Midlands to reconnect with new mom, Jackie Cameron: a top chef, bestselling author, and founder of her very own School of Food and Wine.
World-renowned chef and cookbook author, Jackie Cameron has turned restaurants into nationwide attractions. After years in the industry, Jackie pursed her dream of opening the Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine in Kwa-Zulu Natal. It’s here where Jackie lives, teaches, and got married to her hubby, Ben Wessels with their wedding captured on Top Billing in 2018. This August, the couple welcomed their first baby into the world: Jasmine Cameron Wessels.
New mom, Jackie reflects on her transition into motherhood saying, “She’s changed my life forever. She is definitely the best recipe that I’ve ever put together.”
Balancing both running a chef school and a new baby can be tough, but for Jackie, she feels more ready than ever. “I think being a chef has really prepared me for being a mother because you don’t ever have much sleep and you’ve really just got to wing it and go with it. And, of course, the guests can never know if there’s a problem in the kitchen,” she laughs.
Jasmine’s nursery is decorated in soft, pastel yellows with bumble bees scattered throughout. “I couldn’t resist doing a bee theme because she’s my little honey,” shares Jackie.
The Cameron-Wessels family live in Jackie’s old family home turned cheffing school in Hilton, KZN. When she’s not with Jasmine, Jackie’s spends her time with her budding students as they begin to follow in her footsteps.
Jackie has taken her 12 years of knowledge from the industry and channelled it into running an intensive nationally- and internationally-recognised chef course. “I realised at a very young age that my true passion was in teaching, training, and developing young chefs. That’s when my school was born!”
After a long process of about 10 to 15 years, Jackie slowly transformed her parents’ home into a school. She comments, “I’m not going to lie to you, it was tough. Every single cent that I made went into buying a chair, a lantern, a table, crockery, cutlery, or glasses. You name it!”
The Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine in the heart of the Midlands is where Jackie gives a hands-on approach to guiding the soon-to-be chefs through the crazy reality of the food industry. “This environment allows them to concentrate and focus and really reach their limits. I always say, if you’re mentally prepared for anything, you can do anything.”
Student, Nolan Adimulam shares, “Working with Chef Jackie is just amazing because you learn how to improvise in every situation. Chef is really good on her feet and she really instills that into us.”
Fellow student, Anja Dippenaar adds, “Chef wants you to be the best you can be at all times, and she will push you to be the best because if you don’t live up to your true potential, then what are you doing at this school?”
One successful student in particular is now the Managing Chef of Jackie’s brunch restaurant – an eatery that is part of the school and run by Jackie’s graduates. Andiswa Mqedlana proved her unique talent as a chef by receiving a Young Chef’s Grant to attend the 2020 Oxford Food Symposium in England.
As Managing Chef, Andiswa formulates the menu for the restaurant – an exciting milestone for any young chef. For the Insider SA, Andiswa prepares a brunch starter trio featuring a savoury trifle, chicken liver paté, and gorgonzola cheese wrapped in phyllo pastry and topped with a herbed pesto. For mains, Andiswa fries a chicken croissant wrapped in potato spaghetti to perfection. And even at brunch, can you enjoy dessert. Andiswa’s prepares a white chocolate panna cotta garnished with fruits and lavender.
Jackie’s students are her pride and joy, and with full confidence, she can assure each of them great success for their future careers. Now five years on and the school has received 60 international distinctions. Through the Jackie Cameron School of Food and Wine, Jackie achieves her life goal of imparting knowledge to the future generation of chefs. And who knows, we may see little Jasmine in the kitchen soon enough!