Gloria Mashigo’s journey as a chef is both unexpected and inspiring – with intriguing highs, agonizing lows and heart-warming in-betweens. But what drives this chef to create cakes of impeccable taste and quality?
Walking into her premises and looking at the quality of the cakes lined up in Gloria’s kitchen, it is difficult to believe that her catering and confectionery business, TasteChef is still in its infant stages. Established less than a year ago in 2019, the Mamelodi native is fast making a name for herself. Her creations are as beautiful to savour as they are to look at. “As I discovered early in my teachings, cooking and baking is an art, and I consider myself an artist of sorts. I’m a creative person with a vivid imagination. Couple that with my love for cooking and I’ll show you magic, ” she says.
Unexpected turns and discovering a calling
As a young girl, all Gloria wanted to be was a lawyer. Fuelled by her parent’s sudden divorce when she was just 8 years old, she was forced to grow up fast. “After the divorce, I stayed with my father and older brother. Cooking for them became my escape. It was therapy and every day, I challenged myself to try out different ways of cooking the same things. I played around with spices based on their vibrant colours. Some days I got it right and other days I got it completely wrong, ” she laughs.
Gloria’s love for cooking grew and in 2014 she tried her hand at catering for small events around her neighborhood in Mahube Valley, which resulted in her enrolling for an international diploma in professional cookery at the Capital Hotel School in Pretoria. However, due to financial reasons, she had to drop out. ” Emotionally, I was broken, but I understood that there was nothing I could do at the time to change my situation. I have 2 modules remaining before I can graduate and I still have faith that I will get it done, ” she explains.
After resigning as admin at the Department of Education, Gloria says she went back to her first love, which is cooking, ” I knew when I resigned that I was not a stiletto and office kind of girl. I’m a safety boots kind of chick, ” she says with a grin on her face.
Sunken cakes and lessons learned
When Gloria started her business, her focus was mainly on cooking. Baking was not her strongest suit, so she didn’t pay too much attention to it until her customers started asking for cakes and other pastry goodies. “The demand for cakes was overwhelming and I knew I had to dedicate my time to perfecting my pastry skills, not only to please my customers but to challenge myself and grow as a chef. My first attempt was a sunken mess – my cake flopped. But my failed attempts taught me great lessons about following instructions and asking for help when it was needed, ” she adds.
Gloria had many challenges when she first started her business. Still a student herself, learning a new skill was only the beginning. The demand for pastries meant purchasing new equipment, which was very expensive. Also, Gloria had to find a bigger space from which to work outside her father’s kitchen.” With the help of my father, who I am grateful for, I was able to use the room at the back of our house as my working space. I renovated it and bought new equipment that got me started, ” she says.
Constant process of experimenting
“I love studying ingredients, dreaming up new flavours, textures and combinations. My goal is to create new taste experiences that will differentiate me from other chefs in Mamelodi.”
Gloria’s main goal right now is to grow her brand, get a bigger space to work from so that she can buy industrial equipment and hire staff.
Even though she is still learning and being mentored by more experienced chefs, Gloria still finds time to mentor other young girls in her community. She enjoys sharing recipes and techniques with these future chefs and hopes to be an inspiration to them someday.
The effects of Covid-19
“My business was not directly impacted by the pandemic. I was still able to bake during the lockdown. With the assistance of Ranyaka, I was able to stock up enough ingredients to last entire level 4 lockdown,” Gloria adds.
Gloria says the Nedbank-funded Ranyaka Building Business programme came at the right time in her journey. The mentoring she received helped her look at her business in a different light and with the financial assistance she received during the 8-week programme, she was able to paint her working space, open a business bank account, buy a paypoint and contribute towards marketing material for her business. “I am grateful for everything I learnt in that programme and I can proudly say that I am a product of the Ranyaka team,” she declares proudly
Advice for future entrepreneurs?
“Have self-determination and always demand the best from yourself. Remember that self-discipline and self-respect goes a long way. Sise mpini lana ak’dlalwa ku self-employed.”
Images by Devin Lester Photography