The winelands are where Chef Zola Nene cut her teeth as a young culinary talent. Between cooking for top eateries from Stellenbosch to Franschhoek, she witnessed the evolution of arguably the country’s most renowned vegetable and herb garden. One that’s made her ever mindful of the value in organic ingredients.

Following a two-year stint in England, Zola returned home and enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Arts. While busy with her studies, she had the opportunity to work with numerous top local chefs including Margot Janse of Le Quartier Français and Chris Erasmus of Foliage Restaurant. During her third year, she worked as a food assistant at a leading food and lifestyle magazine for six months.

After completing her studies, Zola made her TV debut as the Resident Chef of Expresso Morning Show on SABC 3. Soon, she made a name for herself in the television industry. In 2016, Zola became one of the co-presenters of the third season of BBC Worldwide Africa’s The Great South African Bake Off. 

The following year,  she published her first cookbook titled Simply Delicious in May 2017, which won the award for TV (English) Celebrity Chef, and was placed second in the category of Best (English) TV Chef Book at the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards that same year.

Today, Zola is a renowned food stylist and writer, media personality, recipe developer, cookbook author, and above all, chef. We joined her as she visited one of the country’s most famous vegetable gardens – Babylonstoren. 

Set at the foot of the Simonsberg in the Franschhoek valley, lies Babylonstoren, one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in South Africa. With its magnificent fruit and vegetable garden, unique accommodation, fine food and wine, Babylonstoren has become a fan favourite for both local and international guests. This week, we got to savour what the farm has to offer. 

Every variety of plant in the garden is edible or has medicinal value. They are also grown as organically and biologically sustainable as possible, by a team including gardener and floral artist Constance Stuurman, who gave us a brief history about the magnificent farm.

As we found out more about where Chef Nene’s love of cooking came from, we find out how some of the ingredients she cooks with, can be combined into the most luxurious skin treatments, with the help of Nadine Afrika, Scent Room Expert at Babylonstoren.

After a day well spent in the garden, we headed back to Zola’s kitchen to whip up a delicious meal from her new cookbook – Simply Seven Colours. Every cookbook by Chef Zola is dedicated to her family members and her new one is dedicated to her new niece, Emily.

Chef Nene remains mindful that every award winning cookbook she releases and TV show she stars in fires the resolve of the young Zola’s out there, looking to make their break.

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