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UD-Express
‘Singing chef’ heads to Istanbul

THE “singing chef” from Despatch, Ilana van Vuuren, is one of five top culinary students who will be travelling to Turkey for a week- long, all-expenses-paid, tour to discover Istanbul’s vibrant food culture.

“I am extremely excited and honoured to be one of the top five, as there literally are thousands of students at Capsicum Culinary Studios across South Africa,” said Ilana, who is an internationally qualified chef in hot and cold food preparations, as well as patisserie.

Ilana van Vuuren is one of Capsicum Culinary Studio’s top five students in South Africa. This resulted in her being offered the opportunity to go to Istanbul on a food and spice tour. Photo: HEILIE COMBRINCK

Istanbul is known as a bustling gastronomic paradise and the group will be visiting some of the largest food markets, attend traditional Turkish cooking classes and visit one of Istanbul’s famous spice bazaars, where visitors can taste the goods on offer.

“They are going to teach us how to make baklava and the preparation of some of the true Turkish traditional meals and desserts.”

She said she has never thought that an opportunity like this would come her way. Her mother, Leonie van Vuuren, on the other hand, said she knew Ilana would one day be an exceptional chef.

“Since the age of four, she was fascinated by chefs and later years she was hooked on cook books and television programmes about food. She always said that one day she would become a chef,” said Leonie.

Ilana completed the two year culinary course and graduated in June 2019. Since then the kitchen of her family home in Azalea Park, Despatch, has been transformed as she has started her own business, Artisan Bakes.

Anyting with food she can do

“Anything to do with food I can do. But my passion is patisserie therefore I am looking forward to see how the Turkish make baklava,” said Ilana. Appearance of food, or plating, is just as important as the taste of food.

Ilana van Vuuren is passionate about patisserie and believes that food must taste as good as it looks. Photo: HEILIE COMBRINCK

“Food must taste as good as it looks. I work out my favourite combinations to the point where I know that even if it’s small, it will have the most delicate flavours that it can possibly have.”

When it comes to traditional recipes, of which she has various winning recipes passed down from her grandmother, Ilana likes to deconstruct them.

The flavour might be the same, but the presentation is totally different.

“I would much rather work 18 hours straight and make the most amazing food than doing anything else. It makes me happy, beautiful food or patisserie is my biggest thrill.”

The group of Capsicum chefs will leave for Turkey on February 17 and return by the 24th.

Heading back on stage

Ilana works tirelessly and in the corner of the kitchen is her companion, a little pink boom box. She loves music and happens to be an exceptional singer.

“Sometimes I dance and sing along whilst being busy in the kitchen. I miss performing, it was a big part of my life which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I am going to pinch off a bit of time from my busy schedule to go back on stage again.”

Ilana was known for her performances of songs like Brenda Fassie’s Vulindlela and Mafikizolo’s Ndihamba Nawe.

From one stage to another, Ilana said that she one day would like to work in a famous restaurant together with Michelin stars or at a little artisanal bakery in France.

  • Visit the UD Express Facebook page to listen how Ilana sings “Vulindlela” in the kitchen.
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