Siba Mtongana has not only captured the hearts of South Africans, becoming a household name since season one of Siba’s Table, but has also gone on to inspire delicious cooking around the world that is – as the term the award-winning South African chef is famous for – simply, “va-va-voom!”
From classic recipes she’s effortlessly redefined into modern staples to unique dishes, Mtongana has conquered the Food Network, both locally and abroad. The first two seasons are among the highest-rating programmes on Food Network SA, and were the first South African programmes to be broadcast on the US Cooking Channel. She returns to our screens with the much-anticipated season three on DStv channel 175. which premiered on Wednesday. In it, she recreates her favourite traditional dishes with a modern spin only she could conceive, creating fusion dishes to impress friends and family.
Traditional food enthusiasts need not worry, however; Mtongana promises to ensure that the dishes remain authentic. “When I create any recipe, I always keep four core pillars in mind. Firstly, making sure the ingredients used are accessible to my fans. Secondly, it must be easy to prepare. Thirdly, it must be beautiful and tasty, and lastly, the dish has to be relatable, ” she explains. “We are more experimental in season three, where I introduce new ingredients some people may have never heard of before, but the products are easy to source at big retail stores. I also make sure that there are alternatives if you cannot find the products yourself – for example, my black ink pasta,” she adds.
In this season, she also styles classics such as beef carpaccio and spicy chicken tacos in ways you’ve never seen, and introduces viewers at home to some international dishes, such as Australian wagyu steak.
Kid-friendly snacks also make it to the menu, as her nine-month-old daughter does the tasting in a family photo shoot. The driven and dynamic mother of three says it’s important to prepare food that’s beneficial and balanced: “I always keep health front of mind when developing new recipes, with a few naughty indulgences, of course. As a mother of three, it is also important for me to consider these things for my kids and to educate them from a young age.”
With the international success of Siba’s Table in places as far afield as Germany and Australia, Mtongana has played an integral role in introducing the globe to vibrant South African flavours and dishes. “It is a privilege, but also a great responsibility, which I take very seriously. When I travel, I see that people don’t know much about traditional South African dishes, which saddens me. Keeping this in mind, I am deliberate in the way I try to include a local flair in many of my dishes, to firstly teach locals and secondly, to educate people around the globe about what South Africa has to offer,” she says.
Mtongana’s love for creating memorable meals extends far beyond the table. “I am in a position where I am privileged enough to be able to educate people about the benefits of following a health-conscious lifestyle and how to incorporate the small healthy choices into their daily lives.”
What about the lessons she’s learnt on her journey about herself and following her passion? “I have learnt that I am quite bold, and strong-willed and I do not let fear stand in my way. I prepare well and I take a leap even when I am fearful.”
The Food Network in South Africa is available 24/7 to all DStv Premium, Extra and Compact subscribers on Channel 175. Don’t miss season 3 of Siba’s Table at 8pm CAT. It’s a feast you won’t want to miss!